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14.08.11 - THE GRAND NATIONAL

Changes to the Grand National course to enhance safety

Aintree Racecourse and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) today announced the interim findings of their review into the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National meeting.
 
The findings of the Grand National Review Group relate specifically to the Grand National Course and its fences, which will be subject to a balanced package of modifications with the aim of enhancing safety for competitors.
 
The balanced changes to the course and fences follow detailed expert analysis of all races run on the Grand National Course since 1990 (when the course was significantly remodelled).
 
In addition, consultation has been conducted with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare and invaluable input has been provided by leading trainers and jockeys in conjunction with the National Trainers Federation (NTF) and Professional Jockeys Association (PJA).
 
Work will now commence to ensure all modifications are fully bedded-in ahead of Aintree’s next race on the Grand National Course, the Becher Chase on Saturday, December 3, 2011.
 
Julian Thick, Managing Director of Aintree Racecourse, said: “The safety and welfare of horses and riders is always our number one priority at Aintree. This is the latest stage in our continuous drive to make the Grand National Course as safe as possible. The Grand National is an unparalleled challenge over four miles and four furlongs and this unique event is the most famous race in the world.
 
“It is not possible to completely eliminate risk in horse racing. However, I am confident the course changes we are announcing today will, over time, have a positive impact. We will continue to monitor this carefully and make further improvements and modifications to the course if required as part of our ongoing commitment to safety.”
 
Jamie Stier, Director of Raceday Operations and Regulation for the British Horseracing Authority, said: “These modifications are sensible and balanced. Aintree, our team of Course Inspectors and our Senior Veterinary Advisor have analysed DVD footage of races and fallers over the National Course since 2000. We have also received a lot of valuable feedback from our sport’s participants and welfare groups. I truly believe it all makes for a strong package of track changes that will enhance rider and equine welfare.”
 
The modifications to the Grand National Course announced today are:
 
1. The landing side of Becher’s Brook (fence six on the first circuit and fence twenty-two on the second circuit) will be re-profiled to reduce the current drop (i.e. the difference in height between the level of the ground on takeoff and landing) by between 10cm (4 inches) and 12.5cm (5 inches) across the width of the fence. This will provide a more level landing area for horses. After the work is complete the drop will be approximately 25cm (10 inches) on the inside of the course and 15cm (6 inches) on the outside of the course. This difference in drop from the inside to the outside of the fence is being retained to encourage riders to spread out across the width of the fence and also to retain the unique characteristics of Becher’s Brook. The height of the fence will remain unaltered at 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres).
 
2. Levelling work will also be undertaken on the landing side of the First fence (fence 17 on the second circuit) to reduce the current drop and provide a more level landing.  By doing so, this amendment aims to avoid catching out horses that may ‘over-jump’ the (first) fence in the early stage of the race. The height of the fence will remain unaltered at 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres).
 
3. The Fourth fence will be reduced in height by 2 inches to 4 foot 10 inches (1.47 metres). It was identified during the review that fence Four and fence Six (Becher’s) were statistically more difficult to jump than other fences in all races over the National fences and this is the reason for this change.
 
4. The height of toe boards on all National fences will be increased to 14 inches (36cm). Toe boards are the orange board, positioned at the base of the fence and provide a clear ground line to assist horses in determining the base of the fence.
 
British Horseracing Authority Grand National Review continues
 
The BHA has launched a wider review of all operational aspects of the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National in April 2011, which is ongoing. The Review aims to explore all available options to reduce manageable risk to horses and riders in the world’s most famous race. The results of the full review will be published in October.
 
The Review includes consideration of the pre and post-race care of all horses in light of raceday weather conditions in recent years. A range of procedural modifications will be implemented in time for the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National meeting. The details of these modifications will be finalised and announced in due course. However, the Review Group is considering:
 
A new post-race horse wash down and cooling area off the course for all horses.
 
Flexibility in the Grand National race conditions to allow for the shortening or removal of the pre-race parade. This would shorten the time that horses are mounted before the race in the event of unseasonably warm weather.
 
Note to editors:
 
The 2011 John Smith’s Grand National meeting took place from Thursday to Saturday, April 7-9.
 
During a calendar year, five races take place over the Grand National Course over varying race distances. These races are the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Steeplechase (2m 5½f), the John Smith’s Topham Chase (2m 5½f) and the John Smith’s Grand National (4m 4f) at the Grand National meeting plus the Grand Sefton Chase (2m 5f) and the Becher Chase (3m 2f) in autumn.
 
During the Review, the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare were consulted. Both organisations are happy to give quotes and can be contacted as follows:
 
RSPCA Press Office
 
Email: press@rscpa.org.uk
 
World Horse Welfare
 
Email: LouiseChapman@worldhorsewelfare.org

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