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THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT RACING

Jake Green talks about the fall out of the Grand National now that the dust has settled. Millions of people from around the world will have tuned in on Saturday to watch the Grand National, Britain’s longest and most testing national hunt race.

The historic contest, which was first officially run back in 1839, although under a different name, captures the publics imagination like no other.

This year’s renewal proved particularly dramatic as protesters burst onto the scene in the build up to race, trying to attach themselves to fences or security railings around the course, in an effort to disrupt or stop proceedings.

The race eventually took place roughly 15 minutes late, with protesters removed and arrested by the police.

Once underway, it proved to be 8/1 favourite Corach Rambler who landed the spoils for Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox, putting on an impressive display to give the pair a second national win, following One For Arthur’s victory back in 2017.

Unfortunately, Sandy Thomson trained Hill Sixteen was put down following a fall at the first fence, news that will understandably have caused much sadness amongst racing fans as well as those against the sport.

After all, no one wants the horses to get injured or lose their life, that’s one thing we can all agree on. However, that’s where the agreement ends.

It doesn’t surprise me that people can see the sport in a bad light. When you’re not familiar with racing, turning on the TV to hear the news that a horse died in the National or any other contest would surely make you stop and think. Is it fair that horses lose their life in the name of sport and entertainment? A valid question no doubt, but one that is far more nuanced and complicated than meets the eye.

These wonderful creatures were bred with one purpose and one purpose only, to race. They are designed to race, they love to race and those that argue otherwise have never tried to make a horse do something it doesn’t want to, because it simply won’t. Mad Moose, a horse that the racing public took into their hearts due to his stubborn antics was the perfect example of this. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, and he would not be persuaded otherwise.

That’s why when you see a racehorse thundering along, often trying to go faster than their jockey would like, it’s safe to say they are enjoying themselves.

While there are risks involved in racing and it would be foolish to pretend there aren’t. There are risks in every discipline of riding, from three-day eventing to polo. There are even risks involved in turning a horse out in a field.

So with a fatality rate of 0.43% in national hunt racing, less than 1 in 200 horses, the real question should surely be, what are the lives of these horses like? Are they poorly treated or loved and respected by their handlers?

I can say with absolute confidence and pride as a former stable lad that it is the latter. They receive the best care of any equine I’ve ever seen. They receive the best veterinary treatment and diets that money can buy. And what’s more if you’ve ever been in a racing environment you will know the love and devotion given to these magnificent animals by stable lads and lasses. The tears and heartbreak displayed when one sadly loses it’s life either through racing, being out in the field, or any other tragic accident.

If racing was banned, it’s quite simple. These horses would stop being bred, thousands never having a chance at a life. Now to me, if it were a choice between a life treated as equine royalty or no existence at all, I know which I’d pick. Yes there’s risk but racing is constantly evolving and adapting to minimise this, the Grand National fences have been changed and altered repeatedly over the years to do just that. But there will always be risk and it can never be truly eliminated. I guess it depends whether you believe the quality of life outweighs this. I for one believe the answer is a resounding yes.

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