The opening day of Cheltenham’s International meeting, was themed ‘The Horse Comes First’. A campaign supported by leading organisations in British Horseracing, it aims to improve understanding of the care given to horses throughout and after their careers in racing. This was demonstrated by the parading of a painted horse, displaying muscle groups on one side and skeletal structure, together with major organs on the other. This was accompanied on ITV by flashing up an impressive array of figures, highlighting the financial investment in horse welfare and low injury rate.
By contrast yesterday’s running of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup was proof, if proof were needed, that the sport is inherently dangerous. Leading by seven lengths, with two to take, Starchitect, was pulled up by Tom Scudamore. He had broken a hind leg and it was fatal. The seriousness of the injury was quickly apparent. ITV race commentator, Richard Hoiles, professionally called the remaining horses home in a subdued and sombre tone, while winning jockey, Ryan Day, showed maturity beyond his years in the respectful comments during his post race interview.
There were no concerns about the horse going into the race and this was not a jumping injury. Also, a post race study of the ground found no flaw which might have been a contributory factor. Whilst the work highlighted by The Horse Comes First is invaluable and the campaign itself is to be congratulated, we have to accept that no amount of investment in equine welfare or implementation of safeguarding measures will ever rule out fatal injuries. All of which will be of no comfort today to those connected with Starchitect.