Newton Abbot horse deaths spark call to ban jump racing

Cuzzicombe at Newton Abbot Racecourse
-Credit: (Image: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

An animal rights group has called for jump racing to be banned after four horses died at Newton Abbot Racecourse earlier this week. Animal Aid described events on Tuesday as racing's 'darkest day in 17 years'.

Hallowed Rose fell and is believed to have suffered a broken neck. Bala Brook was pulled up injured in the same race and Cuzzicombe suffered a fracture to a leg and was euthanised. Happy Helen collapsed and died of a heart attack.

The British Horseracing Authority has launched an investigation and is expected to give an update next week. Newton Abbot Racecourse released a statement promising to assist.

It said: "All at Newton Abbot Races Limited are deeply saddened by the loss of four horses at our meeting on June 25. All our sympathies are with the owners and trainers of the horses concerned. We will assist the British Horseracing Authority with their enquiries into the full facts."

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But opponents of horse racing say the time has come to ban the sport altogether. Animal Aid’s horse racing consultant, Dene Stansall, said racing 'should be held accountable', for what happens on its tracks and this week's events were 'shameful' to the sport.

"Horses pay with their lives, raced by an industry focused on betting and making money no matter the consequences. It is time to ban jump racing."

Those involved in the sport point to high levels of care given to racehorses and the dedication of owners, trainers and everyone involved to their welfare. Racing is the second biggest spectator sport in the country, with around six million people attending each year.

According to the BHA the number of horses that have died on racecourses has decreased by one third in the last 20 years. In February 2020, the Welfare Board published its five-year strategic plan for the welfare of horses bred for racing.

Among 20 recommendations was that race horses should get the best possible quality of life in all aspects of health, care, husbandry and disease control.

The BHA said in its statement released earlier in the week: “Our thoughts are with everyone connected to the horses who suffered fatal injuries yesterday. The loss of any horse is always a dreadful occurrence for the owners, trainers and stable staff who provide them with outstanding care and attention throughout their lives, and so a day like yesterday is one that deeply saddens all of us who love the sport.

“Losing four horses at a single fixture is extremely rare but this does not reduce the seriousness with which the BHA takes this matter. All four deaths will be thoroughly investigated to understand as best as possible how they occurred and a report will also be compiled on the condition of the course, which is being assessed in order to ascertain whether there are any concerns regarding the racing surface.”