25 Mounts Die Under ‘Legendary’ Jockey in 6 Years
December 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
With Tony McCoy reaching his unprecedented 4,000th win last week at Towcester, Animal Aid has revealed that McCoy has set a second record: 25 horse deaths over the past six years, the most of any UK jockey.
Animal Aid, the UK’s second largest animal rights organisation after PETA, launched its Race Horse Deathwatch database in 2007. Since then, no fewer than 25 horses ridden by the celebrity jockey have died during or soon after he completed the race. Based on this figure, one horse has died for every 211 raced by McCoy. However, research published by Animal Aid last May found that other leading riders were also in step with this attrition rate.
Director of Animal Aid, Andrew Tyler, said: “He has the highest death rate, but not by very much. He’s absolutely typical, and this is the problem. The Professional Jockey’s Association itself says that, on average, 1 horse death occurs for every 200 races that a jockey has. But they don’t want people to discuss this. It is racing’s dirty secret.”
Previous research by Animal Aid found that around 375 of the horses entered into races each season die from their injuries, or are killed because they are considered to no longer have any commercial value, even though they are young enough to continue racing. While some 30% of the annual fatalities occur during or immediately following the race, the remainder are killed either because of injuries during training, or after being assessed by their owners as no-hopers.
Its findings were put to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the sport’s governing body, and the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) last year, both of which said that they accepted these death tallies for the jockeys.
Tyler said: “These deaths have been kept out of the media because they’re inconvenient facts. Horseracing is presented as an upbeat activity, when in fact it’s a ruthless business and the horses are expendable.”
Among the most famous of McCoy’s casualties was Cheltenham Gold Cup Champion Synchronised, ridden by the celebrity jockey at the 2012 Grand National. The death of this champion received considerable media coverage, and prompted a renewed outcry over racing fatalities.
Animal Aid’s Horseracing Consultant, Dene Stansall, said: “They couldn’t keep Synchronised out of the media. He had won the Gold Cup three weeks beforehand and was exposed because it happened during the Grand National. But it’s the smaller courses, the horses that die during a wet Wednesday race that no one hears about. Only horses killed in high profile races get out to the press.”
The National Campaign group insist that the horse racing industry has always concealed the number of horses raced to death every year from the public, and even from racing correspondents. They claim information on mortality is becoming more, rather than less, difficult to obtain.
Stansall said: “The problem with the BHA is that they refuse to respect individual horses and instead they see them as percentages of runners. They are not an answerable public body and are not fulfilling their role as the welfare regulator for race horses as they are not transparent in the information that they release. While this exists, we won’t know the true extent of the problem.”
“Tony McCoy has built his career and made millions by using horses. He has a responsibility, too, to be open and honest. In the past, he has been sad when his horses die, but he’s never spoken up and said ‘We need to do something about this.’ ”
Those involved in racing reject such criticisms. BHA spokesman, Robin Mounsey, said: “British racing is among the world’s most regulated of animal activities and we are very open about injuries and fatalities. The 14,000 or so horses registered in training in this country at any one time are subject to a level of care and quality of life virtually unsurpassed by any other domesticated animal.”
Animal Aid accepts that, despite making some progress with its campaign, it still has a long way to go. They will continue with their Race Horse Deathwatch database, as they believe every horse that dies as a result of the racing industry deserves to be named.
Tyler said: “We are a huge inconvenience to the BHA because we keep telling the truth. Particularly at a local level, the racecourse is part of the commercial and cultural infrastructure, and they don’t want any dark clouds cast over it. Commercial horseracing is inherently exploitative. It doesn’t warrant public support and we want to see the back of it.”