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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

French-bred horse Neptune Collonges wins Grand National - but at what price?

Saturday was the 165th running of what is for many in the United Kingdom a national institution; the Grand National at Aintree.

Neptune Collonges (Wikipedia)

And just as every year since 1960, the BBC broadcast the race live.

In France it could be seen the equine sporting channel Equidia live TV and there was a special reason for the French to be in front of their screens applauding because for the second time in four years a French-bred horse won.

Back in 2009 it was 100-1 outsider Mon Mome who won by 12 lengths.

This time around it was a much closer affair with another French-bred, British-trained horse, the 11-year-old grey thoroughbred Neptune Collonges putting in an amazing turn of speed to beat Sunnyhillboy by a nose in a photo finish.

And that after four miles and four furlongs of what is arguably the most gruelling of horse races.

Neptune Collonges in photo finish with Sunnyhillboy (screenshot Racing UK TV)

But somewhat overshadowing the thrill of the win has been the death of another of horse in the race, Synchronised.

Before the field was underway this year's Gold Cup winner had provided and made quite a spectacle of himself unseating his rider, champion jockey AP McCoy, but being passed fit by course vets to race once he had calmed down.

Everyone knew and knows how dangerous horseracing is and perhaps the Grand National is the most challenging race there is.

But safety measures have been tightened over the years and officials have made changes to the course and size of some of the fences and the infamous Becher's Brook, although still surely the most frightening of obstacles, isn't quite what it once was.

And it was to be Becher's that would prove to be the undoing of the nine-year-old Synchronised when he fell and unseated McCoy on the first circuit.

These horses are bred to race and jump though. They love it and live it, don't they?

That's the argument put forward by many and indeed the way the riderless Synchronised continued jumping certainly seemed to add weight to that argument.

Except five fences he fractured a leg as a result of jumping and had to be put down.

And he wasn't the only fatality during this year's race.

According to Pete, suffered the same demise after he was brought down at Becher's second time around.

In fact, a quick look at recent statistics from the British Horseracing Authority shows that 20 horses have died in races over Grand National fences since 2001 and 10 have died in the race itself in the last 12 years.

Yes the day was a great result for French-bred horses but as a sporting event - was it really worth it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why can't these horses be treated for broken limbs and be allowed to retire afterwards? For sure, they won't be able to race again, but that's not reason enough to put them down. Ghastly race, it should be banned and we British "animal lovers" should be ashamed.


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