Aintree yesterday announced changes to the Grand National course following the deaths of two horses at this year’s event.
Race organisers say the shake-up will include reducing the treacherous drop at Becher’s Brook, the course’s most notorious fence.
TV viewers saw two horses, Ornais and Dooneys Gate, die in April, bringing the number of fatalities at the three-day meeting to 33 since 2000.
Chaos: Dooneys Gate ridden by Paul Mullins and Or Noir De Somoza ridden by Tom Scudamore, right, fall at Becher's Brook
The safety review will see two other fences remodelled and the introduction of procedures to prevent horses overheating in warm weather.
The height of Becher’s on the take-off side will remain 4ft 10in, but the drop once horses clear it will be reduced. Other changes will see ‘toe boards’ on fences increased in height to help horses judge their jumps.
The review – carried out by the British Horseracing Authority – also proposes a cool-down area for horses in warm weather and the option of shortening the pre-race parade to prevent them overheating.
However animal rights groups – which had called for the annual race to be banned – said the review did not tackle the causes of fatalities and branded it a public relations exercise.
Among bodies consulted were the RSPCA which last night gave a lukewarm response to the announcement. 'Raising the landing zone at Becher's Brook is undoubtedly a step forward,' said its equine consultant, David Muir.
'However, the RSPCA remains concerned about drop fences. We will continue to monitor the situation and see how horses cope on landing over the fence.'
'Animal cruelty': Pickamus ridden by Will Kennedy falls at Bechers Brook during the 15.40 The John Smith's Topham Steeple Chase, left.
Right, Dooneys Gate ridden by Paul Mullins falls at Becher's Brook during the 16.15 The John Smith's Grand National. Animal rights groups have branded the changes a PR exercise
But animal rights group Animal Aid – which has branded the Grand National cruel and demanding its banning – said the changes missed the point.
Its horse racing consultant, Dene Stansall, said: 'The changes to Becher's Brook are a positive move.
'But at this year's race, Dooneys Gate died because it hit the fence, somersaulted over and another horse landed on it – the drop didn't have any effect.
'They've really just tinkered around the edges – while the race is as long as it is, and with so many runners, it will always be dangerous.'
The changes will be trialled when the Becher Chase is run at Aintree on December 3.
Julian Thick, managing director of Aintree Racecourse, said: 'It is not possible to completely eliminate risk in horse racing.
'However, I am confident the course changes we are announcing today will, over time, have a positive impact.
'We will continue to monitor this carefully and make further improvements and modifications to the course if required as part of our ongoing commitment to safety.'
Originally posted by dailymail.co.uk