Blindfolded racehorse death at Brighton to be investigated

Brighton Racecourse Image copyright Paul Gillett
Image caption Just Marion died in a race at Brighton Racecourse

An investigation has been launched into how a racehorse escaped from a starting stall still blindfolded.

The mare, Just Marion, unseated its jockey before he could uncover the horse's eyes and crashed through side rails at Brighton Raceourse on Monday. It was later destroyed.

An animal rights group has criticised the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) for the safety "failing".

The BHA said it was "looking into all the circumstances of the incident".

The five-year-old horse sustained multiple fractures when she bolted blind in the 7f apprentice handicap.

It is not uncommon for racehorses to be blindfolded prior to a race to get them into the stalls.

A spokesman for Animal Aid said it has expressed concern over starting stall procedures before, including in September when runner Mukaynis trapped its leg in the gates at Doncaster Racecourse and had to be put down because the bone was shattered.

The group's horse racing consultant, Dene Stansall, said: "The BHA must ensure that the highest possible safety measures are in place at racecourses to protect horses from serious injury and death.

"They are aware of many problems but fail to take meaningful action. Those whose responsibility this is should be made answerable and shamed for their failures."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Starting stalls similar to those from which Just Marion bolted

A BHA spokesman added: "The incident at Brighton was extremely sad and our sympathies are with connections of the horse.

"The circumstances around this incident are exceptionally rare. We are, however, looking into all the circumstances surrounding the incident. As always we consider any factors which might impact the welfare of horse and rider, and where appropriate implement change in an effort to minimise a repeat of incidents."

In a statement Brighton Racecourse added: "We will review the course layout at Brighton with the British Horseracing Authority's racecourse inspectors to see if any changes are required."

How common are deaths in horse racing?

  • Animal Aid launched Horse Death Watch in 2007 to record every on-course thoroughbred fatality in Britain
  • In 2016, it accounts for more than 130 horse deaths
  • There is at least one death every year at the Cheltenham festival, and seven in 2016
  • The sport employs over 6,000 people to provide care for around 14,000 horses in training
  • According to the BHA, in the last 20 years the equine fatality rate in British racing has fallen by one-third, from 0.3% to 0.2% of runners.

Sources: BHA, BBC, Animal Aid

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