There was relief among the organisers of the Cheltenham on Thursday night after a fatality-free day – but they could still come under pressure to make changes for next year’s Festival following three deaths on the opening two days.
The RSPCA said it would “thoroughly investigate” the falls which led to Our Conor, Akdam and Stack the Deck being put down on Tuesday and Wednesday to establish whether any more could have been reasonably done to prevent their injuries.
David Muir, the RSPCA equine consultant, is awaiting the results of the post-mortems into the respective spinal injury, broken foreleg and fractured left knee sustained by the horses.
Muir’s initial analysis of Our Conor’s fall was that the horse made an error, and he had no immediate concerns over the incidents involving Akdam and Stack the Deck, having walked the course and found it in similar condition to the previous year, which witnessed just one fatality.
However, Muir said he would review all the evidence in full – including returning to Cheltenham and examining the parts of the course where the injuries were sustained.
He told The Telegraph: “I will thoroughly investigate each and every incident and anything I find that is of concern – if I find anything of concern – I will then take to the British Horseracing Authority and the racecourse management at Cheltenham.”
Muir will make a detailed comparison between this year’s Festival and previous years to determine whether there are any trends in terms of size of fields or the condition of the course when it comes to serious accidents.
He will also examine the histories of each of the horses involved to ascertain if any risks specific to them could have been flagged up in advance.
With the RSPCA having worked with the BHA to improve the safety of Britain’s racecourses – including Cheltenham and Aintree – in recent years, it is thought any changes at next year’s Festival would be a case of fine-tuning.
Yesterday’s largely incident-free races came after the course was watered overnight.
Another fatality would have piled on the pressure for organisers ahead of Gold Cup day and would have raised fears of a repeat of 2012, when five horses died, a figure the RSPCA said at the time “simply cannot be justified”.
As with the Grand National last year, there was nervousness among racing authorities ahead of Thursday's action and relief when it all went off without incident.
Muir said: “Deaths cause concern, not just to the RSCPA. Deaths cause concern to everybody, including those in racing.”
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