Critics have tirelessly campaigned against steeplechase horseracingÂ—and particularly those held at brutal AintreeÂ—because, they argue, it amounts to nothing but legalized animal cruelty.
They have a strong point, too, because it's not the same as thoroughbreds running the flat tracks and, if they're having a bad day, simply finishing in last place.
With the need to maintain top speeds plus negotiate grueling jumps, sharp bends and fences, if a horse in a steeplechase is feeling off or a bit sluggish they can break their ruddy necks.
Can you cause a horse to underperform?
Why, sure you can. Taint their oats or slip them a mild sedative, or whatever else you may have handy that will disagree with their delicate systems, and dire results are guaranteed.
And a horse that's mildly nauseous or tired might appear fine at the starting gate, perhaps admirably calm even, but in the midst of such fierce competition and such a demanding obstacle course, it would only take one slight misstep to do the creature in.
Remember too, this isn't just a plastic trophy the winner and his owner takes home at the end of the day. The prestigious purse in England's 2013 Grand National is worth nearly 1.5 million U.S. dollars [$1,495,552 and 50 cents to be exact]. Everyone can agree, those kind of earnings are all the incentive needed to prompt wrongdoing.
Then factor into this potent mix hundreds of millions of people watching the race and betting anything from a pittance to the whole pot on it, and suddenly it becomes clear that all the necessary ingredients are on hand for concocting something nefarious.
Dozens of dead equines in only thirteen years is a troubling statistic, to say the least. If stable owners, managers, handlers, trainers, or jockeys at Aintree aren't responsible for this stunning rate of carnage, surely somebody is.
True, a steeplechase is an incredibly perilous "sport" that activists worldwide insist is anything but sporting; and also not inconsequential is the sad fact that many horses just can't make the grade.
Hurdling, battling, and still being fleet of foot is a natural talent that even the best training in the world could never imitate. The fact that most of the top contenders are in the 10- to 12-year-old bracket also shows it's definitely not a challenge for the inexperienced.
Still, on the average, only six horses per thousand actually perish in steeple-chasing. Compare that with the Grand National's toll of six per 439 over the past decade and it would seem to justify the raised brows and criticism, if not merit a major criminal investigation as well.
The usual suspects
Greed, avarice, their evil brethrenÂ—if it's all just due to jockeys following orders to cruelly push steeds far beyond reasonable limits, well then, that's murder too.
Otherwise, anyone with access to stables, pens and tack rooms could be the culprit here. Unfortunately this would be thousands of people daily, many having blanket permission to be on racing grounds or to enter and exit them 24/7 when need be.
Intentional or accidental, though, the unusually high fatality rate at this venue shows something's up. And when only in the opening days a second horse dies, in spite of extreme efforts at protecting them, it's time for both organizers and spectators to ask the hard questions and do some soul-searching.
These noble beasts deserve much better than to die doing an activity that under normal circumstances they were born to do and live for.
Image sources: BBC and PiaBerrend.org
This article has been flagged as spam, if you think this is an error please contact us.