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The deaths of two horses following the Grand National have sparked calls for the famous race to come to an end.
This year's Aintree festival saw 40 horses take to the start line for the main event, with 50-1 outsider Noble Yeats, ridden by jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, emerging victorious.
The race always becomes the subject of criticism, particularly from animal rights activists, who regularly call for the event to be banned.
A total of 40 horses raced in the Grand National, but only 15 finished. Eclair Surf was put down after suffering a heavy fall, while Discorama also died as a result of its injuries.
Emma Lavelle, who trained Eclair Surf, said: "We were optimistic when he left the track, but during the night he just got more and more wobbly and as he got more distressed it wasn’t the right thing to do to keep going.
"You kind of sit there and think of the ifs and buts and why nots, but you can't sit and think that.
"It’s a real gutter for everybody – his owners and the team. He was an exciting horse for the future, but what can you say?"
Across the weekend, another two horses died following other races at this year's meeting: Solwara One and Elle Est Belle.
This makes a total of 59 horses that have died at the Aintree Festival since 2000, and 15 that have died as a result of running the Grand National in the same time period, according to the League Against Cruel Sports.
Chris Luffingham, the animal welfare charity’s director of external affairs, said: "This death toll is simply unacceptable and a blight on the horse racing industry.
"We need new safety measures to prioritise horse welfare and to bring about an end to this sickening spectacle.
"We need a new independent, regulatory body which focuses purely on the welfare of the horse and ends the use of the whip and the cruelty and body count associated with the Grand National."
The RSPCA has also condemned the deaths, calling them 'heartbreaking' while backing calls for more extensive safety measures.
We are saddened & concerned to see a second horse, Elle Est Belle, die at the Aintree Grand National. It is crucial steps are taken to reduce these tragedies. We urge the BHA to explore if this death could've been avoided & to identify action to prevent future injuries & deaths— RSPCA (England & Wales) (@RSPCA_official) April 9, 2022
It said: "The death of any horse is always one too many so it is crucial that steps are taken to reduce the risk of such tragedies occurring."
The British Horseracing Authority, which has made a number of changes to make races safer for horses since 2012, has been urged to identify how deaths could be prevented in the future.
James Given, director of equine health and welfare, said: "We are all extremely saddened by the fatal injuries at the Grand National festival.
"Following a detailed review in 2011-12 the BHA and Aintree racecourse worked together to introduce a number of significant measures which have helped in the intervening years to reduce the injury rate at the Grand National meeting.
"However, welfare and safety is an ever‑evolving commitment and the BHA works constantly alongside our racecourses to further improve the sport’s safety record and reduce avoidable risk."
Topics: Horse Racing