The BHA (British Horseracing Authority) has concluded it's review into the 2011 running of the Aintree Grand National. Responding to criticism over the deaths of two horses in last years race, the BHA has published a list of recommendations which will be implemented in time for the 2012 Grand National.
Notable changes include the tightening of entry requirements for the race. In 2012 the minimum age of horses eligible to be entered in the race to be increased to seven from six years, and all horses to have previously finished 4th or better in a Steeplechase under Rules of three miles or further.
Fence 4 (20 Second Circuit) is to be reduced in height by 2ins to 4ft 10ins so that it is more in keeping with the plain fences already jumped and will ensure that a consistent “core to spruce” height ratio will be maintained. Other small alterations include changes at the Becher’s Brook fence.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]We have learned some valuable lessons from the events of 2011[/quote] Other recommendations include better contingencies for unseasonably hot weather on the day of the race. The 2011 race was a prime example of the problems hot weather can cause. The winner of last years race ‘Ballabriggs' was immediately dismounted after passing the winning post. Breaking with the tradition which normally sees the winning horse and jockey riding into the winners enclosure with an escort of mounted police. However, the dismounting had been a pre-planned contingency and on the instruction of officials, a fact the BHA concede was not communicated as well as it might have been to the public at the time.
Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare for the British Horseracing Authority, said: “We have learned some valuable lessons from the events of 2011, one of which is that we need to work harder and be more effective at communicating our positive, proactive welfare work. For example, the scenes of jockeys dismounting and water and oxygen being made available to horses post the Grand National were mistakenly interpreted as evidence of extreme fatigue on the part of the horses, when in fact the measures were designed to be pre-planned and preventative.”
It was interesting to note that the BHA considered the possibility of bringing the first fence closer to the current start position. however, they found little support amongst the participant for the change, but agreed to monitor the race and re-evaluate the positioning of the first fence after the 2012 running.