Cheltenham Festival Defends Safety Record After Multiple Horse Deaths
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Organisers of Cheltenham Festival have said the safety and welfare of its horse is ‘paramount’ after facing criticism for four horse deaths.
During the opening race on Tuesday, a horse named Shallwehaveonemore fell and subsequently had to be euthanized.
On Thursday, horses Mindsmadeup and Born Patriot fell and had to be put down.
And yesterday (Friday 18 March Ginto) was also put down after sustaining an injury.
The deaths have sparked a backlash from animal rights campaigners with The League Against Cruel Sports saying the horses were being ‘sacrificed in the name of entertainment’.
Now, Ian Renton, regional director at The Jockey Club, has said staff put the welfare of horses ‘at the top of our list’.
Speaking to BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Renton said: "All our team here work absolutely tirelessly to do everything we can for horses and human welfare and that is absolutely paramount in everything we think.
"We got criticised for watering [the course] on Tuesday night, the reason for that is to try to ensure we produce absolutely the safest ground, and we will continue to do that.
"We will continue to take criticism for things like that because the welfare of horses is what we put at the top of our list."
According to figures from campaign group Animal Aid, 73 horses have died at Cheltenham since 2000.
Following the deaths at this year's races, the League Against Cruel sports is calling for a new independent regulatory body and urged organisers to implement ‘much tighter’ safety measures for the horses.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has previously labelled the sport 'racing to the grave' for horses.
On its website, it states: "Horses begin training or are already racing when their skeletal systems are still growing and are unprepared to handle the pressures of competition racing on a hard track at high speeds.
"One study on injuries at racetracks concluded that one horse in every 22 races suffered an injury that prevented him or her from finishing a race, while another estimated that three thoroughbreds die every day in North America because of catastrophic injuries during races."