England’s Cheltenham Festival is coming under scrutiny and drawing ire from the public and animal welfare organizations after five horses were killed in only two days of racing.
Scotsirish and Garde Champetre were euthanized on the first day after fracturing legs on the flat, along with Educated Evans, who broke a leg at a fence during the final race that day. Two more horses, Featherbed Lane and Abergavenny, also suffered from broken legs the following day and were also euthanized.
Yet another horse, Wishfull Thinking, fell and crashed through the rail taking out his jockey and a photographer (video).
‘The news that five horses have now been killed in just two days of racing at Cheltenham confirms the reputation of the Festival as a bloody and unforgiving event. The race that claimed today’s two victims could easily have killed more, given the numerous alarming incidents. It featured an insanely crowded field of 28 runners, who would have found it difficult to position themselves safely when approaching the numerous obstacles. Adding to the risk was the noisy, frenetic Festival atmosphere in which the horses have to race. Cheltenham has now killed 38 horses since 2000. Calling it a sporting event is a travesty,’ according to Animal Aid.
Many believe the track was too hard due to dry weather, but officials had watered it and are claiming they had no reason to believe it was unsafe. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will be launching an investigation, but appears to be playing down the deaths.
“There is a threshold of fatalities over the year at Cheltenham that would trigger further careful analysis, but we are nowhere near that yet,” said Robin Mounsey, the BHA’s communications manager.
“Any death on any racecourse simply cannot be justified,” said the RSPCA’s equine consultant David Muir.
According to Animal Aid’s website Race Horse Death Watch, 804 horses have died on tracks in Britain in the last five years, which doesn’t take into account the number of horses who have died and continue to be killed in accidents off the track or are sold to whoever will take them because they’re not making anybody any money. Sadly, the death toll will continue to rise for nothing more than greed and entertainment.
Photo credit: Paolo Camera