BHA to investigate following four deaths at Musselburgh on Monday
The BHA will investigate the circumstances that led to the deaths of four horses at Musselburgh's jumps meeting on Monday, but track officials do not believe conditions at the Scottish circuit were to blame.
That view was reinforced by trainer Jimmy Moffatt, whose Smart Ruler collapsed four out under Henry Brooke in the 1m7½f handicap hurdle.
The Rebecca Menzies-trained Leather Belly, Jean McGregor's Sierra Oscar and Kensukes Kingdom, who won the novice hurdle for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs, also lost their lives.
The BHA's head of media Robin Mounsey said: "As the sport's independent regulator we obviously treat issues such as this very seriously and work will now be undertaken to identify if there are any risk factors at the course or with the horses that might have contributed to these incidents.
"We will work with the racecourse, and the BHA's inspector of courses will be visiting Musselburgh in the coming days to carry out a full inspection.
"Where appropriate some of the horses are also being sent for post-mortems to establish more information, including for one of the horses whose death seems to relate to a sudden collapse."
Mounsey, who also offered his and the governing body's condolences to those affected, added: "The incidents at Musselburgh were extremely distressing for everyone involved in the sport, not least for the owners of the horses and the trainers and stable staff who cared for them through their lives."
Mounsey also underlined the regulator's commitment to safety. "For four horses to be fatally injured on one day of racing is very rare," he said. "Owing to the sport's investment in welfare research and education and ongoing programme of innovation and improvement, the average fatality rate in Britain over the last few years has reduced to around 0.2 per cent of runners.
"Everyone in British racing is committed to reducing risk and making racing safer for our participants."
Expressing his deepest sympathies for connections, Musselburgh chief executive Bill Farnsworth said on Tuesday: "The conditions at Musselburgh yesterday were as good as we've ever experienced.
"The ground was just the soft side of good and horses were making a lovely print in it. They weren't even flicking the turf over and it was just like running on a cushion or deep-bed carpet. There was a full covering of turf and healthy grass, no wind or a cloud in the sky; it couldn't have been a more perfect day for racing in terms of safety.
"I do have every confidence in the track. When you've got more than 10,000 races per year we all know there will be a small number of injuries and even smaller number of fatalities. It's a statistical certainty these things will happen rarely and it would be very strange if these things happened in a nice, even format throughout the year. Like car accidents, it doesn't work like that."
Horse welfare is paramount, stressed Farnsworth, who added that he is happy to liaise with the BHA over any post-fixture assessments. He said: "Regardless what happened yesterday, we are always working with the BHA to try to reduce injuries and fatalities, using technology, different materials, and we'll continue to do that, as will every other course and participant in the sport, but I'm not aware of anything yesterday that was different to previous meetings that caused those fatalities.
"I'd describe the track as being in superb conditions and the jockeys were complimentary during and after racing."
Moffatt described the 12-year-old Smart Ruler as a personal friend to everyone in his Cumbrian yard.
He said: "He was in great form with himself and was making the running. We were all very happy with how he was going but it appears he had a heart attack. His legs were in perfect condition, there were no injuries, so I don't feel there was anything wrong with the track. I walked it before and felt it was in good condition.
"He was a kind horse and we're all very upset, but there's small comfort he didn't suffer. I would have no problems with the racecourse whatsoever; it just sounds like an unfortunate day. Unfortunately, injuries happen but my fella had legs like iron bars."
You might also be interested in: