What is it about horse racing that humans rush to see? The Grand National Horse Race — considered in the U.K. as the world’s greatest steeplechase — ran this past week. Tragedy struck not once, not twice nor thrice – but four times!
Three horses were killed during the race; two on Saturday and one on Thursday. The winning horse, Ballabriggs, almost succumbed to dehydration and exhaustion at the finish line. And the jockey riding Ballabriggs–Jason Maguire–was handed a five day ban for excessive use of his whip on the winning horse.
Twenty horses have died in this race since 2000. Add to that a jockey’s fall resulting in a medically-induced coma due to a bleeding brain injury and you have the list of four major events at the 164th Grand National at Aintree Racecourse, U.K.
Peter Toole, the 22-year-old jockey who sustained bleeding on the right side of his brain from a fall during the race was put into a medically-induced coma on Saturday. He is now reported in critical but stable condition at the hospital.
The four and a half mile race is considered grueling. It is not simply the distance that tires horse and jockeys, but the 30 jumps over 16 fences each horse must make over two circuits to stay in the race.
Some of the jumps have a difficult reputation, like Becher’s Brook. With a 6 foot, nine inch fall on the landing side it has been described by some jockeys as “jumping off the edge of the world.”
Andrew Tyler, Animal Aid Director, was quoted in Sky News. “The public has been conned into believing that the Grand National is a great sporting spectacle when, in reality, it is straightforward animal abuse that is on a par with Spanish bullfighting,” he said. “This race should have no future in a civilised country.”
Andy Stewart, owner of Ornasis – the horse who broke his neck during a fall at this year’s event – called Ornasis’ demise an “unfortunate” incident. “We all take chances in our life,” he said. “This was unfortunate. He broke his neck and he died instantly.” Stewart disagrees with the call for a ban on the Grand National Horse Race, calling it “totally wrong.”
Animal advocates would disagree. After all, humans have the choice of taking a chance – or not – with their life. Race horses are offered no such opportunity. They are forced to participate at the behest of humans.
Why? With a prize fund of £950,000 in 2011, ($1,545,749.64 US)
it appears the Grand National is not about national pride in a sporting event. It’s about the money to be made.
What do you think? Is the Grand National a sporting event to be proud of or another way for man to make money through the sacrifice and suffering of animals?
Make your opinion known; sign the Care2 petition asking for a ban on the Grand National Horse Race in U.K.
Photo credit: Flickr: Gordon2208