Two Horses Euthanized at 2012 Grand National Steeplechase

Two horses competing in Great Britain's famed Grand National steeplechase were euthanized after sustaining serious injuries during the race, which was held April 14 at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England. The race spans four-and-a-half miles and includes 30 jumping efforts.

Both horses--pre-race favorite Synchronised and According To Pete--sustained fatal injuries during falls at Becher's Brook, the largest and most daunting fence on the course. The falls occurred at different times during the race.

"In both cases the horse incurred a fracture to the leg and the humane option was to put the injured horses down," Tim Morris, DVM, PhD, British Horseracing Authority (BHA) director of equine science and welfare, said in a written statement. "The Grand National undoubtedly represents a challenge to both horse and rider. It has inherent risks, but, working closely with Aintree and other stakeholders, we do all we can to minimize these risks while maintaining the unique character of the race. We will examine closely the circumstances which led to both incidents."

"We are reasonably advanced in the process of examining the incidents which led to Synchronised and According To Pete being put down," added Paul Bittar, BHA chief executive, in another statement. "While that process still needs to be completed, it is relevant to point out that although both horses lost their riders jumping Becher's Brook, Synchronised galloped away from the fence seemingly without injury and then subsequently incurred a fracture to a hind leg when jumping riderless, while According To Pete was brought down by another horse on the second circuit."

Bittar noted that in recent years, changes have been made to the race and the course in an attempt to improve the event's safety for both horses and humans.

"The evidence indicates that the changes and improvements in safety made over the years have led to an overall decrease in injury and fatalities, both on the Grand National course and racing in general," he relayed. "It is important these matters be judged over a period of time. The decade since 2000 was the safest on record for the Grand National with a fatality rate of 1.5% compared to 3.3% at the start of the 1990s. Sadly, there have been two fatalities in each of the last two runnings of the race. Naturally our objective is for there to be no fatalities, but we also recognize that we cannot remove risk altogether from such a competitive activity."

Meanwhile, Neptune Collonges (who went off at odds of 33-1) and jockey Daryl Jacob prevailed in a photo finish to win the 2012 running of the prestigious event. According to a report from, the winning owner, John Hales, said that Neptune Collonges--the first gray horse to win the race since 1961--will be retired after his victorious weekend.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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