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Grand National Announces Safety Changes After Horse Fatalities

Grand National Announces Safety Changes After Horse Fatalities
Daryl Jacob riding Neptune Collonges (grey horse) on their way to winning The John Smith's Grand National during the John Smith's Grand National Steeple Chase at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. Photographer: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Grand National, the world’s most famous steeplechase, will implement a number of changes after two horses were fatally injured at the race in April.

The start position will be moved forward 90 yards, away from the crowd and grandstands at Aintree Racecourse in northwest England, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said in a statement on its website following a review of the events in the spring.

The Grand National, one of the biggest betting events in the U.K. horseracing calendar, will be shortened to 4 miles and 3 ½ furlongs from 4 ½ miles (7.2 kilometers). The BHA said it would also take measures to prevent horses from getting caught up in the starting tape.

“Our objective in recommending changes to the start is to identify ways in which we can create a calmer and more controlled environment for both horse and rider,” Jamie Stier, director of raceday operations and regulation for the BHA, said in the statement. “We recognize that there is pressure and tension before the race and we want to alleviate that where possible.”

The BHA won’t change the height of the fences or reduce the 40-horse field, even after calls to do so from animal rights groups.

In April’s race, Neptune Collonges made a late charge to beat Sunnyhillboy by a nose. Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According to Pete were both put down after sustaining injuries as only 15 horses reached the finish line.

Ten horses have been killed in the Grand National in the past 12 years, according to the BHA.

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