The 2012 Grand National is likely to live long in the memory.
A dramatic duel between Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhillboy produced the closest finish in the race’s 173-year history, but that was largely overshadowed as a global audience of millions and the 70,000-strong Aintree crowd in attendance watched on in disbelief as Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According to Pete had to be put down following serious falls.
Jockey and horse safety is back in the headlines again. Here’s a look at the fall-out from the race following the tragic events in Liverpool and some analysis of what the future of the much-loved sporting event could hold.
Ruby Walsh was due to ride On His Own in the National only for a horror fall in a previous race on the same day to rule him out due to injury. The champion jockey was quick to defend race organizers for the measures taken to reduce the possibility of any fatalities or serious injuries – and he wasn’t alone! Daryl Jacob, meanwhile, basked in the glory of leading Neptune Collonges to victory.
Paul Nicholls ended his long wait for Grand National success with Neptune Collonges and is hoping common sense prevails amid calls for widespread changes to the format of the race, pleading for officials not to go too far. Nicholls argues that reducing the size of the infamous fences at Aintree will only speed up the race and lead to more fallers. Malcolm Jefferson, owner of According to Pete, insists he would have no hesitation about entering a horse into next year’s race despite the heartache he has endured over recent days.
Larger-than-life John McCririck has called for changes to be made regarding horses that get loose before the start of a race as Synchronised ditched jockey AP McCoy to delay the start of the race before tragedy followed.” Claire Balding aired her views via Twitter and urged for a rethink over the 40-horse field that traditional starts at the National.
Animal rights groups
Much has been made of the comments from Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, who has been scathing in his criticism of the Grand National. Officials from the RSPCA, meanwhile, want the Becher’s Brook fence removed.
There are various theories being bandied around at present as to what happens next regarding the Grand National, including making no changes whatsoever. One train of thought is to scrap the race altogether, although that would appear extremely unlikely. Reducing the field is another option generating plenty of debate along with reducing the race length, number of fences and size of fences. There are even calls to make the fences bigger as it would slow the race down.
This round of news following the 2012 Grand National comes courtesy of Equestrian Clearance, a leading retailer for horse equipment and accessories.
Image courtesy of Richard Humphrey