More than £1.5m invested in trying to protect the welfare of horses at this year’s Grand National meeting
- Grass is cut to four inches for the whole circuit to provide plenty of cushion
- Take-off and landing areas near fences have been created with greater spring
- Veterinary teams assess the health of horses as soon as they arrive at Aintree
The Grand National meeting at Aintree will get underway on Thursday with more than £1.5million invested in trying to protect the welfare of horses.
Racegoers have grown accustomed to animal welfare protests outside the course and recent deaths of Sir Erec and Invitation Only at Cheltenham have only heightened concerns ahead of Aintree this week.
However, the racecourse has made huge improvements in recent years with changes made since 2012 including the rebuilding of fences, facilities and stables.
A total of £1.5m has been invested at Aintree to ensure the safest ground is available for races
They also made it compulsory that any jockeys not to have ridden over the Grand National course more than twice are required to attend an official walk of the course with a BHA jockey coach.
The Professional Jockeys Association is supporting the move and Carl Llewellyn, twice a winner of the Grand National, and former fellow top jockey Brian Harding, third on Simply Gifted in the 2005 National, have been enlisted to pass on their knowledge of riding the unique course.
Jockey Leighton Aspell, who won successive Nationals in 2014 and 2015, said: ‘There are two things particularly that have changed for the better. Firstly the core of the fences is now much softer and safer and secondly the bypass of the fences, particularly for the loose horses. Every year, Aintree takes another step in the right direction.
Veterinary teams assess the health of horses as soon as they arrive to certify they are safe to race and not a danger to themselves or other horses.
Changes made at Aintree since 2012 including the rebuilding of fences, facilities and stables
Changes have been made to the physical structure and composition of fences while the approach to each fence and how they appear to the horses and jockeys has also been improved.
A dedicated cooling and wash-down area is in place to help horses recover as soon as they leave the track after a race while medical facilities are among the finest in the country.
Detailed attention has also been paid to the turf. A total of £1.5million has been invested at Aintree to ensure the safest ground is available to be raced on at all times, regardless of the weather and climate conditions. The grass is cut to precisely four inches for the whole circuit to provide plenty of cushion. Even the species of grass, make-up of the soil and measured watering is considered to ensure the ground is safer for horses to run on while the take-off and landing areas around the fences have been created with greater spring in the ground.
Jockey Club Estates operations manager Will Riggall said: ‘The training fences have proved a great initiative. The replica fences are put up at training centres around the country and the provide a great opportunity for any runner to get their eye for the big day.’