Grand National meeting suffers first fatality on day one after Battlefront collapses following Fox Hunters’ Chase
By Mike Dawes
PUBLISHED: 11:05 EST, 4 April 2013 | UPDATED: 14:23 EST, 4 April 2013
The Grand National meeting at Aintree suffered its first fatality on day one as Battlefront collapsed and died after the 3.40 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase.
The horse, ridden by Katie Walsh, was pulled up at the 11th fence of the 2m 5f chase on Thursday afternoon, which was won by 100-1 long shot Tartan Snow.
Unfortunately 11-year-old Battlefront, trained by the jockey’s father Ted, then suffered a suspected heart attack on the way back to the stables and died.
The chase was the first race to be held over the Grand National fences.
Aintree has revamped the course fences to make them safer for competing horses after criticism of the meeting’s Saturday showpiece branding it dangerous after seeing two fatalities – According to Pete and Synchronised – in last year’s National.
Despite the accident not involving a course fall, the news is still a blow for organisers.
Professor Chris Proudman, veterinary adviser to Aintree Racecourse, confirmed the news, saying: ‘We can confirm that Battlefront was pulled up at fence 11 of the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase on the Grand National course by his jockey Katie Walsh and sadly afterwards he collapsed and died.”
John Baker, Aintree and North West Regional Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, expressed his sympathies but defended the sport.
“I would like to extend our sympathies to the Walsh family for this sad news,” he said. “British racing is very open that you can never eliminate all risk from horse racing, as with any sport.”
However, welfare standards are very high and equine fatalities are rare.
‘With 90,000 runners each year, we have a fatality rate of just 0.2 per cent.’
Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, described the carnage at Aintree as ‘utterly depressing’.
He said: ‘The Aintree authorities and the British Horse Racing Authority have been claiming that major new safety measures and efficiencies would eliminate much of the risk associated with racing on the Grand National course.
‘But today’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, in which Battlefront lost his life, was stomach-wrenchingly chaotic from start to finish Several horses fell or were pulled up, tired and potentially injured.
‘It was both utterly depressing and served as confirmation that the Aintree authorities have got it badly wrong once again.’