A DEVASTATED racehorse trainer yesterday spoke of his sadness following the death of his Ryedale horse in the Grand National.
The horse According to Pete, which was trained at Norton, near Malton, suffered a broken shoulder when he was brought down after jumping the 22nd fence Becher’s Brook.
He was jumping for the second time round and tumbled after another racer, On His Own, fell in front of him. The deaths – Synchronised also had to be put down – have led to a call from the RSPCA for officials at Aintree and the British Horseracing Authority to review the Grand National.
Malcolm Jefferson, who trained According to Pete at his yard in Norton, said: “He was jumping so well when he went to Becher’s Brook the second time round. A horse fell in front of him and he broke his shoulder. It’s very sad for us, the owner and his jockey.
“Everyone is devastated. We all loved him, he was a great horse. He’d been everywhere, won a lot of races and prize money and I always thought he would make a national horse.
“He was a neat little jumper and was jumping well on Saturday and enjoying it. He was was running a great race and might have been there or thereabouts, we don’t know.
“He was a joy to have. We had a lot of good days out with him.”
Mr Jefferson, who was running According to Pete’s half brother, The Magic Bishop, yesterday, said he has been touched by the calls and text messages he has received from well wishers since the tragedy.
In a double shock, Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised was also put down when he fell and broke a leg during Saturday’s race.
The horses death’s have sparked a mixed reaction locally as to whether major changes need to be made the famous race to make it safer.
Tony Jenkins, owner of Staintondale Shire Horse Farm, said: “One of the general opinions is there are too many horses running round.
“Another thing, which I feel quite strongly about it the actual jumps. They don’t give any indication to the horse what they are about to take on.
“Its very easy for jockeys to walk around the course and see what they are going to do, but the horse has to act purely on instinct.
“That Becher’s Brook jump has got a drop on the far side, which I think isn’t fair on the horse, which will have projected itself over the fence then has this sudden drop to contend with.
“I think it’s a hazard that isn’t neccessary.”
However a worker at Snainton Riding Centre said the incident was very sad but was a consequence of the race.
She said: “It is something that unfortunately happens but you can’t go about expecting every horse is going to be put down.
“I think a lot of horses, especially race horses, enjoy events like this. If you look closely at them while they are running a lot of them have their ears forward, which shows they are happy.”
The Grand National was won by outsider Neptune Collonges which beat Sunnyhillboy in the closest-ever Grand National finish. But the dramatic race was marred by the deaths of According to Pete and Synchronised, both of whom were put down after their falls.
In the wake of the race, RSPCA equine consultant David Muir said there are “many elements” to the Grand National which all need to be addressed.
“We need to consider the number of runners, the number of fences, the length of the race and the type and design of the jumps,” he said.
“I am not happy about drop fences and Becher’s is a drop fence. Before the race I said let’s see how horses cope (with modifications made since last year) and it appears they still had difficulties coping with that fence, but it is a work in progress.
“To be fair, the BHA and Aintree management will look into the race and I believe we will see a rolling change without taking away the ethos of the Grand National over the next few years.
“We need to reduce risk levels and see more finishers. We’ve had three days’ racing and one horse that died on the flat and now two in the Grand National. The faller rate is too high and needs to be addressed.”
According to Pete had built up a loyal following among racing fans in Yorkshire, many of whom had followed the horse throughout his career. Owner Peter Nelson, of Helperby, had high hopes he may have become the first Yorkshire horse to win the Grand National since 1960.
Mr Jefferson said: “People who are generally interested in horses, from all walks of life, know it happens – everybody does. The thing is it happens and to good horses because they put so much into it, like the best footballers or rugby players. The best people and the best horses are the ones more likely to get injured because they put so much into it.
“For us it is really sad. You know it can happen but you don’t expect it to. If you thought it was going to happen, you would never get up and go to any of the races.”
l The other Ryedale-based horse in the race, Neptune Equester, trained by Malton’s Brian Ellison, finished 13th of the 15 horses to complete the course.