BHA to conduct safety review following three deaths in Grand Annual
The deaths of North Hill Harvey, Some Plan and Dresden in the Grand Annual, the concluding race of the Cheltenham Festival, have prompted the BHA to launch a safety review.
Six horses died over the four days of the meeting: Sandsend stumbled on the flat earlier on the Friday card, while Mossback and Report To Base suffered fatal injuries on Tuesday. There were four fatalities at the festival last year and seven in 2016.
In a statement, the BHA's chief regulatory officer Jamie Stier said: "I must first express my sympathy towards to all those who loved and cared for the horses who suffered fatal injuries this week. Everyone who follows this sport does so because we love these fine animals and it is extremely sad when we lose any horse.
"The BHA will be reviewing the circumstances leading to the fatalities at the Cheltenham Festival. We will examine the evidence from the past week over the next few days before deciding how we will pursue the review.
"We continue to use research, safety measures, regulation and education to reduce fatality rates to as close to zero as possible. This is what has contributed to the overall fatality rate within British racing reducing by a third in the last 20 years, and the fatality rate in jump racing reducing to below 0.4 per cent of runners."
Five winning rides, including that of Richard Johnson on Native Rider, were also subject to sanctions for misuse of the whip and Stier indicated that those breaches would also be investigated.
He said: "We will also be examining whether the existing penalties for misuse of the whip, and how they apply, constitute an adequate deterrent to jockeys."
The RSPCA also released a statement following the conclusion of the meeting, picking up on both points.
Spokesman David Muir said: "These fatalities are extremely concerning and it is essential that the announced review by the racing industry must be completely comprehensive to reduce the likelihood of such tragedies occurring again.
"The review should be inclusive of horse welfare organisations and for the benefit of the horses it is essential that we continue to work with the regulatory body giving our full support to their review.
"A review was carried out at Aintree in 2012, which has since reduced horse falls, injuries and fatalities.
"We also believe the use of the whip and the term encouragement needs to be clearly defined, and our view is that the whip should only be used for safety and correction."
Cheltenham officials confirmed on Saturday that they would work with the BHA in investigating the circumstances of the six deaths and in particular the three in the Grand Annual, the last of the 28 festival races.
Ian Renton, regional director of Jockey Club Racecourses South West, said: "We don't want to lose any horse at the meeting and for us it is a huge challenge and always the safety of the horse is paramount.
"We have massive sympathy for all those involved with those horses. Whenever we have any casualties we investigate and work with the BHA over anything that can be done to prevent it."
FESTIVAL WHIP BANS
Patrick Mullins 6 days, Rathvinden (won)
Ruby Walsh 2 days, Benie Des Dieux (won)
Katie Walsh 6 days Relegate (won)
Patrick Mullins 4 days Mall Dini (2nd)
Noel McParlan 9 days Missed Approach (won)
Richard Johnson 7 days Native River (won)
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