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By Editorial staff


Much more than a mere equine race

Though a renowned tradition, the Grand National faces scrutiny over safety and animal welfare amid growing protests.

The Grand National – to be held at England’s Aintree racecourse tomorrow – is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest horse races in the world… and it’s a tradition, although one whose days may be numbered.

Over the past few years, animal rights protesters have stepped up their efforts to disrupt the classic steeplechase event, because of what they say is cruelty to the horses.

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The race itself is not only strenuous, it can be dangerous for both horses and jockeys. There have been five equine fatalities in the past four editions, although not all were due to falls.

This has meant alterations, including a reduction in the numbers in the field from 40 to 34 (66 horses lined up in 1929), as well as reductions in the run to the first fence and the size of the 11th fence – an open ditch.

Protesters announced this month they would not be disrupting the race this weekend. So, no doubt the fashion parades and the jolly course-side imbibing will continue.

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Yet, the cruelty debate will also continue.

It would be a pity, though if a spectacle like the Grand National were to disappear from the racing calendar, because it is so much more than a mere equine race.

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