British racing authorities say the deaths of two horses in last month’s Grand National could not have been foreseen. The deaths could not have been prevented, it found.
The finding is contained in a report released today by the British Horseracing Authority following the deaths of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According to Pete in the gruelling jumps race held at Aintree in mid-April.
Evidence for the inquiry was gathered from racecourse veterinarians who treated the two horses and the authority’s own veterinary officers.
In addition, there was detailed analysis of all available television footage, including material not broadcast, from the BBC and Racing UK, as well as stewards’ patrol video footage.
The authority said it had completed the task of establishing, as far as possible, the relevant facts and sequence of events, including Synchronised getting loose before the start of the race. It also probed circumstances around the start of the race.
The director of raceday operations and regulation for the authority, Jamie Stier, said: “In the case of both Synchronised and According To Pete, it was apparent that factors one could neither have foreseen nor prevented were prevalent in the events that led to the two horses sustaining their injuries.
“Evidence has been gathered from the Racecourse Veterinary Surgeons who treated the horses in question and the BHA’s own Veterinary Officers. In addition, there was detailed analysis of all available television footage, including material that was not broadcast, from the BBC and Racing UK, as well as Stewards’ patrol video footage.”
The authority found the following circumstances surrounded the deaths of the horses:
Following the incident going down to the start when jockey AP McCoy was unseated and Synchronised proceeded to canter loose for a short period of time – about two minutes – it can be confirmed that the horse was subject to a veterinary examination before being cleared to race.
The senior racecourse veterinary surgeon examined Synchronised before AP McCoy remounted the horse, including monitoring his heart rate. This was found to be barely elevated above normal resting rate. The type and rate of respiration was also examined and, again, was found to be hardly elevated. The authority’s own veterinary officer was also present and he spoke with the Stewards who were monitoring the incident from their respective viewing positions and on television.
Synchronised was running in about 23rd position when he fell at Fence 6 (Becher’s Brook). He appeared to have a clear sight of the fence and did not make a significant error but became unbalanced prior to landing and fell sideways on to his left side. AP McCoy was dislodged forward and clear of the horse. There did not appear to be any other factors which contributed to this fall.
After the fall, the horse got up and carried on running and jumping fences riderless. On review of the footage there is no evidence to suggest he was carrying any sort of injury at this point. This is corroborated by speed sensing data, which shows that the horse was travelling at the same speed both before and after the fall at Becher’s.
The injury that led to Synchronised being put down occurred at Fence 11. He appears to decelerate into the fence and does not jump it cleanly, dragging his hindlegs and hindquarters through the fence. It would appear he fractured his right hind tibia and fibula in the process.
Synchronised was promptly attended to by veterinary surgeons, who identified the scale of the injury and concluded that the humane option was to put the horse down.
According To Pete:
On the second circuit of the race, According To Pete was in the front half of the field. As the runners bypassed Fence 21, a maneouvre made on account of medical treatment being administered to an injured rider, Noel Fehily, the horse was in eighth place, alongside eventual winner Neptune Collonges.
After bypassing the fence on the outer, the field, which at this stage stood at 17 runners, together with three riderless horses, returned on to the racetrack proper and began to fan out back towards the middle of the course.
According To Pete was still travelling on the bridle approaching Fence 22 (Becher’s Brook), now in seventh place, with clear space in front. He jumped the fence well but on landing found he had nowhere to go and on the stride after landing he collided with the rear of the faller On His Own, resulting in the horse being brought down with the rider, Harry Haynes, being thrown clear.
As the horse got up, Weird Al jumped the fence and came into contact with According To Pete’s left side. It is not conclusive whether this collision or the greater impact incurred when he was brought down led to the fracture of the horse’s left fore humerus.
Although According To Pete had a clear sight of the fence on approach, On His Own was possibly left a little unsighted due to the leaders, Planet of Sound and Shakalakaboomboom, drifting left from the outer. This caused On His Own to get in close to the fence and consequently he landed steeply with reduced forward momentum, knuckling on landing and rolling to his left, into the path of According To Pete.
Again, veterinarians were quickly on the scene, the injury was diagnosed as untreatable and the decision made to put the horse down.
The report that found all 40 riders appeared to be in breach of the rules relating to the start. The riders either lined up prior to being instructed to do so by the starter, or on other occasions lined up despite being instructed not to do so by the starter.
It is estimated that 36 of the 40 riders were in breach of the rules when they lined up before being instructed to do so in the incident which led to the first false start. By the time the race had started, after two further attempts to make a line, all 40 riders had breached in some manner the guidelines for conduct at the start of a race.
Despite the apparent breaches of the relevant rules, it has been decided not to bring charges against any rider. In arriving at this decision, the authority said it took account of the effect of the delay caused by the late arrival of Synchronised at the start and the complications experienced with re-setting the starting tape.
It said it had written to all the riders concerned and expressed disappointment at their conduct at the start, especially bearing in mind that considerable emphasis was placed on this aspect of the race during the pre-race jockey’s briefing.
In showing disregard to the instructions of the starter, the riders placed those on the ground assisting with the start in a potentially dangerous situation, the report found.
In the longer term, the starting procedures for the race will be considered, in conjunction with Aintree, and changes will be made if deemed appropriate.
Stier said: “At this stage, it remains too early to speculate as to whether any changes will be made to the Grand National; either to the start or to other aspects. Naturally, we will be liaising closely with Aintree in collating and examining all relevant evidence from this year’s meeting.”