Aintree fences being made safer after the deaths of two horses at Grand National

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After this year’s event at Aintree, three fences for the Grand National are going to be assessed and made safer, following the deaths of horses Ornais and Dooneys Gate in April this year. This now brings the number of fatalities at the Grand National since 2000 up to 33.

The fence Becher’s Brook will be changed, with 13 fatalities on this fence, 6 more than any other fence. This fence is the sixth fence, the one that Dooneys Gate died jumping this year, which jockeys had to divert round the second time around. The drop after the fence, which is currently 8 inches, will be shortened between 4 inches and 5 inches across the width of the fence.

The height of the toe boards, used as a take-off aid, will also be increased to a standardised 14 inches.

The fourth fence, which has a height of 4ft 10in and currently stands at 7 fatalities, will have a height reduction of 2in after the death of Ornais on the first circuit this year.

The first fence will be the last to be changed, its height currently standing at 4ft 6in, with 4 fatalities to date. The drop will be reduced to provide a more level landing and stop horses from losing balance.

The proposal also will include a cool-down area for horses in warm weather to prevent them overheating. There will also be the option of shortening the pre-race parade to prevent overheating.

Animal Aid horse racing consultant, Dene Stansall, said: ‘ The changes to Becher’s Brook are a positive move. But at this year’s race, Dooneys Gate died because it hit the fence, somersaulted over it and another horse landed on it – the drop didn’t have any effect. They’ve really just tinkered round the edges – while the race is as long as it is, and with so many runners, it will always be dangerous.’

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