Investigation launched after four horses die in one day at Musselburgh racecourse

Smart Ruler (centre) competing in the Neville Porter - Musselburgh's No1 Bookmaker Handicap Hurdle Race.
Smart Ruler (centre) competing in the Neville Porter - Musselburgh's No1 Bookmaker Handicap Hurdle Race.
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ANIMAL rights campaigners have blasted safety standards at an East Lothian racecourse after four horses suffered fatal injuries during a single day of competition.

Horse Racing regulators are investigating Monday’s jumps meet at Musselburgh Racecourse which resulted in the deaths of three horses - including one competing in just its second race - in the space of 90 minutes.

Kensukes Kingdom, which won the novice hurdle in the first race of the day, was destroyed shortly after the race finished before Smart Ruler, a 12 year-old chestnut gelding, fatally collapsed on the course.

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Six-year-old gelding Sierra Oscar and five-year-old Leather Belly were both put down after suffering broken legs during their respective races.

Track bosses insisted conditions on the course were “ideal for racing” and promised to cooperate with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in their investigation.

However activists Animal Aid described the scenes as “harrowing and unforgivable” and called for the body to be stripped of their position as welfare regulators.

Racing guides rated conditions at the track as “good, good to soft in places” ahead of the meet, which featured seven races.

But Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall, told the Evening News: “It is unforgivable that horses are dying on an almost daily basis. The situation is getting increasingly dire for the horses whose lives are in serious danger every time they step onto a racecourse.”

He added: “We will pursue our campaign to remove the BHA from their position as horse welfare regulators. Their position is untenable as they are, shamefully, failing to protect race horses.”

The campaign group said the 182 racehorse deaths during 2018 was already a three-year high for the sport.

Some of the horses involved have been sent for post-mortem examinations to determine their cause of death.

Musselburgh Racecourse general manager, Bill Farnsworth, said: “Our thoughts are with the owners, trainers and stable staff of these horses.

The ground conditions and weather at Musselburgh Racecourse on December 3 were ideal for racing but until we have further information it would be wrong to speculate as to the cause of these tragic incidents.”

He continued: “We will work closely with the BHA and assist their investigation to establish what happened and to ensure that Musselburgh continues to adopt best practice for all participants in racing.”

A spokesman for the BHA added: “The incidents at Musselburgh yesterday were extremely distressing for everyone involved in the sport, not least for the owners of the horses and the trainers and stable staff who cared for them through their lives.

“For four horses to be fatally injured on one day of racing is very rare. We will work with the racecourse and the BHA’s inspector of courses will be visiting Musselburgh in the coming days to carry out a full inspection.”