Reflections of Allan Gilchrist

16th April 2012 : National Healthcare

I read with interest Al Duncan's Grand National comments yesterday, where he expressed his concern at the level of (negative) opinion coming racing's way in the light of the tragic death of 2 participants in Saturday's Grand National.

As for myself, I thought the main topic for bad publicity was going to be the ridiculous starting procedure, but no doubt that can be left for another day.

As Al alludes to in his piece, this is an invaluable race in terms of media exposure, attracting an ever growing band of young converts to our sport. And it has been since the BBC first stated transmitting the race live over 50 years ago.  Indeed, it was the Grand National victors Merryman, Nicholas Silver and Team Spirit that encouraged me to follow horse racing.

As for the 2012 editions, perhaps if the casualties had not been two high profile horses then the publicity would have been less (rightly or wrongly).
I listened with interest to much more knowledgeable experts yesterday (Sunday) on ATR etc. and there is not an easy solution. Unfortunately the animal rights groups will get lots of support from TV viewers and the general public who do not hear all the complicated aspects for the best way forward.

Personally, even after listening to the arguments against, my suggestion would be to reduce the number of runners.
That, at least, should help in the following ways :

But, importantly, I would rather that the fences remain the same with fewer runners than to continue with 40 runners going even faster over lesser obstacles. Those with long memories may recall when the Mildmay Course consisted of smaller versions of the National obstacles (only the water jump was used in each course). These smaller 'Aintree style' fences were fearsome, precisely because they were jumped at speed, and were eventually replaced by today's regulation park fences.

But, by preserving the status quo of the course, the unique, worldwide attraction of the Grand National would remain intact. 600 million cannot all be wrong!! .

Finally.... looking at Synchronised when it was caught after getting loose before the start, I was very surprised that the horse was allowed to run.
It was blowing very heavily on my BBC picture. It may not have gone very far at a great pace but it looked excited and on an adrenalin high.
If any jockey other than the top 3 or 4 was on board, would the vet have passed it fit to race ??

Answers on a postcard to the usual address................

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