Tragedy and insensitivity overshadow Grand National as two horses die


April 10, 2011

LIVERPOOL, England (April 10, 2011) — Insensitive BBC commentators continued to call the 2011 Grand National as two horses died in front of thousands of spectators and a worldwide television audience of 600 million.

Ornais fell at the fourth breaking his neck and Dooneys Gate fell at Becher’s Brook breaking his back during the first circuit.

Large green tarpaulins screened the bodies of the horses while Aintree staff flagged the jockeys on the second circuit, sending them away from the jumps where Ornais and Dooneys Gate now lay dead.

During the television re-run of the race following the finish, commentators still failed to mention the fatalities.

The public flooded social networking sites and message boards criticizing the BBC and expressing concern for the horses who run in the Grand National. Commenters on the Corporation’s website accused the BBC of covering up the tragedy, minimizing the deaths of the two horses.

A spokesman for the BBC stated they were “aware of the unfortunate events of the two fatalities” and “during the race and the re-run this was covered with as much sensitivity as possible.”

“Sensitive coverage of the deaths of Ornais and Dooneys Gate would have been to acknowledge the tragic event during the race and having an on-air moment of silence in honor of the fallen horses afterwards, not act as if it didn’t happen at all,” responds Vivian Grant Farrell, President of the U.S. based Int’l Fund for Horses and a native of Liverpool. “This type of behavior at a moment like this does nothing for the reputation of horse racing. Instead it signals a callous attitude concerning the lives of racehorses to all those watching.”

Only 19 of the 40 horses who started this year’s Grand National finished the race. The eventual winner, Ballabriggs, was too exhausted to be ridden into the winner’s enclosure. Stewards banned his jockey, Jason Maguire, for five days for excessive use of the whip.

“40 horses in the Grand National are 15 to 20 horses too many,” states Farrell. “A way to shield horses and jockeys from injury and death is to control the quantity and quality of the horses allowed to race.”

Saturday’s Grand National tragedies follow the death of Inventor on Thursday, the first day of the Aintree meeting, adding to the growing list of casualties at the famous Liverpool racecourse.

Four horses were killed at the three-day Aintree meeting last year, and five in 2009. Since 2000, a staggering 33 horses have died at the Aintree spring festival amid increasing protests from animal welfare groups.

The Grand National held at Aintree racecourse is considered the greatest steeplechase in the world. A test for both horse and jockey, the Grand National is run over 4 miles and 4 furlongs with 30 testing fences in 2 circuits.

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The Horse Fund is the most dynamic equine advocacy organization of its kind. Headquartered in the United States The Horse Fund protects horses at home and abroad by lobbying and acting as horse industry watchdogs.


“BBC attacked for ‘covering up’ Grand National deaths”, by Jasper Copping, The Telegraph, Apr. 9, 2011,

“Aintree day of horror as TV audience of millions see two horses die at the National”, by Stephen Davies, The Daily Mail, Apr. 10, 2011,

Vivian Grant Farrell
Phone: (502) 341 9195
Email: By Form Delivered to Phone

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