Grand National: Police arrest 118 at Aintree after protest from animal rights campaigners as another horse dies

By Sports Desk April 15, 2023

Animal rights campaigners succeeded in delaying the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday as police arrested 118 people amid scenes of chaos.

Corach Rambler won the 175th running of the famous steeplechase; however, the start was held up for 14 minutes after a large number of activists attempted to gain access to the course before the main event.

Merseyside Police said arrests had been made for "offences including causing public nuisance and criminal damages", with efforts to breach the perimeter fence and enter the track largely thwarted.

The Aintree spectacle is among the world's most famous races but also has many detractors, with concerns over the number of horses that suffer serious injuries or die from falls.

Two horses died at the Liverpool course in earlier races during this week's Grand National Festival, and a third passed away in the big race itself, with Hill Sixteen dying after falling early on.

Police and security had been on alert for a likely effort to interrupt the race.

Assistant chief constable Paul White said: "The perimeter of Aintree racecourse covers an extensive area of between 4-5km and obviously poses challenges for policing. However, we have been planning the policing of this event for a number of months and we had a robust plan in place to ensure that we had adequate staff to deal with it.

"Just after 5pm a large number of protesters attempted to gain entry onto Aintree racecourse. The majority were prevented from breaching the boundary fencing thanks to our planning and the work of my officers.

"I can confirm a total of 118 people have been arrested today. I would like to thank everyone for their patience whilst this matter was dealt with in a safe and appropriate manner."

After the protest drama, pre-race favourite Corach Rambler lived up to that billing by timing the finish to perfection, coming home ahead of Vanillier, with third place going to Gaillard Du Mesnil.

Reacting to the news of Hill Sixteen's death, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), indicated its concerns about horse safety at the meeting.

The RSPCA said on Twitter: "‘We are very distressed to hear of the deaths of Hill Sixteen, Dark Raven and Envoye Special at the Grand National Festival today. We will be discussing this incident with the British Horseracing Authority."

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