Aintree cleared of responsibility for National fatalities

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AINTREE has been absolved of blame for the deaths of popular Yorkshire steeplechaser According To Pete and Gold Cup hero Synchronised in the John Smith’s Grand National last month.

The British Horseracing Authority says neither death could have been “foreseen nor prevented” as inquiries continue into the staging of this year’s race.

It has, however, written to all 40 jockeys to admonish them for their conduct at a shambolic start, though no riders will face disciplinary action.

Their impatience was compounded by Synchronised, the pre-race favourite, unseating 17-times champion jockey AP McCoy – the first of a series of mishaps that marred the photo-finish triumph of Neptune Collonges.

However, the BHA confirmed the horse was sound when he passed a veterinary inspection after being remounted before the start.

The report says McCoy’s mount became “unbalanced” prior to landing at Becher’s Brook and no other factors contributed to this fall.

Using monitoring equipment attached to the saddle of every horse, the BHA can now confirm that the riderless Synchronised continued at racing speed over a further four obstacles before suffering a fatal injury at the 11th fence.

“He appears to decelerate into the fence and does not jump it cleanly, dragging his hindlegs and hindquarters through the fence. It would appear he fractured his right hind tibia and fibula in the process,” the report says.

As for the Malcolm Jefferson-trained According To Pete who was owned by Helperby couple Peter and Anne Nelson, he was travelling soundly under young jockey Harry Haynes, and alongside the eventual winner, as they bypassed fence 21 because Noel Fehily was being treated for a broken leg.

The BHA believe Paul Townend’s mount On His Own was left slightly unsighted by the leaders, hence the horse knuckling on landing and bringing down According To Pete. As the 11-year-old got to his feet, he was struck in his left side by the Donald McCain-trained Weird Al.

“It is not conclusive whether this collision or the greater impact incurred when he was brought down led to the fracture of the horse’s left fore humerus,” says the report.

No comment is made on whether the National field of 40 runners is too dangerous, or whether the height of the fences should be increased to lower the speed of the competitors.

BHA raceday operators director Jamie Stier said: “At this stage, it remains too early to speculate as to whether any changes will be made to the Grand National. Naturally, we will be liaising closely with Aintree in collating and examining all relevant evidence from this year’s meeting.

“While the focus of attention is inevitably on the Grand National, it should not be forgotten that throughout the three days Aintree staged top class and highly competitive jump racing under near perfect conditions. The course deserves considerable credit for implementing the changes recommended in the 2011 review to such good effect.”