Horse Racing – ‘You just don’t understand’, trainer tells Grand National critics

Eurosport - Grand National - falling horses

Eurosport / April 4, 2013

Top trainer Jonjo O’Neill has hit out at animals rights activists for trying to get the Grand National banned, telling them that they “just don’t understand”.


Eurosport - Grand National - falling horses

Eurosport – Grand National – falling horses

Two horses have died in each of the last two years at the race, leading to increasingly loud calls from campaigners to put an end to the world’s most famous National Hunt event.

O’Neill knows only too well about the regular fatalities at Aintree: last year he watched in horror as his horse Synchronised, who had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup the previous month, suffered a fatal fall.

But the Irishman told The Times that those who criticise British racing’s showpiece event do not know what they are talking about.

“It’s always been a fantastic race and it still is,” said O’Neill, who trained 2010 National winner Don’t Push It.

“People saying the National should be stopped just don’t understand.

“We are all in racing because we love the horses, but we take things to heart.

“Some of the things said about us are a bloody insult, as if we are animals ourselves.

“There are people out there stabbing and shooting, killing randomly, and sometimes it seems we are being put in the same bracket.”

O’Neill, who rode in the National as a jockey eight times without ever managing to finish, will have two runners in Saturday’s race: Sunnyhillboy and Lost Glory.

The deaths have prompted several changes to the course, and there will be more this year as the start has been moved forward 90 yards while timber frames in the fences have been removed.

But the changes have always seemingly been to little avail: safety improvements began in earnest after the 1989 race saw two horses killed, yet since then horses have continued to die in the race at an average of one a year.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Marcia

    Oh, I think we understand.

    April 4, 2013
  • Mustang man

    It doesn’t need to end; it does need fixing to decrease the chances of horses dying. This is a sticky subject with me. Horses love to run, love to jump and trust us to take care of them when doing so. So it isn’t a matter of stopping the events, it’s a matter of taking into account that death should be the far exception, not the rule. At Aintree deaths are and always have been the rule, sure most make it, quite a few make it through with injuries hidden from the public I am sure. This can be a fun and safe sport for both horses and people if the people involved take some responsibility, It’s not about the riders glory as after all the rider is just a passenger, the horse does all the work, I speak form experience in this.
    I myself would take it as a compliment to be considered the same as “A Animal”, for one I am, as all mammals are, 2, I have never seen any other species but apes (man) push other species into something that could kill them for entertainment, if that what our level of intelligence has bought us then we got the short end of the deal. Fix the event, horses would like something to do with people and this is one of the greatest equine sports.

    April 4, 2013
  • Rosie Hefferon

    If they loved the horses that much, they wouldn’t put them at risk of fatality.

    April 4, 2013
  • The first thing to remember is that horses don’t volunteer to engage in human sports.
    The second thing is that if we are going to “use” living animals for sport, then we are obligated to preserve their health and quality of life and keep them safe.
    The third thing is that horses can live into their 30’s, but these horses never will as the sport injures, maims or kills some of them and the ones who don’t measure up are at risk of slaughter at a young age.
    In a sport like this attitudes have to change or the sport will not be preserved.

    April 4, 2013
  • Robynne Catheron

    We do understand, believe me. That’s why we subscribe to this blog. And ditto, Margo, well said.

    April 4, 2013
  • BlessUsAll

    “There are people out there stabbing and shooting, killing randomly, and sometimes it seems we are being put in the same bracket.”

    You are, and with good reason, Mr. O’Neill. You have chosen to put these horses at risk of being maimed and killed. They have no way of objecting, of defending themselves, or of ensuring their own safety. That is not fair, thus it is not a true “sport.”

    April 4, 2013