Safety review prompts Sedgefield racecourse changes

Horses during the Grand National at Aintree
Aintree, home of the Grand National, has proposed similar changes following a safety review earlier this year

Sedgefield Racecourse have responded to a number of race horse fatalities at the venue by modifying parts of the jumps course, following a review.

Six horses were killed in as many weeks earlier this year, prompting criticism from animal abuse charities.

"We've repositioned the last fence," course clerk Major Charlie Moore told BBC Tees.

"We felt if we're going to do anything to reduce injuries, the best thing is for fences to be in the best position."

The move follows similar steps to be taken at Aintree, following the death of two horses during the 2011 Grand National.

Moore continued: "We have had a full and detailed review of all the racing at Sedgefield, we involved other interested parties, the British Horseracing Authority, National Trainers Federation and the Jockey's Association of Great Britain to see where we can make improvements to make sure the horses race in the safest possible conditions.

"The last fence had been being approached in a downhill position, the water jump used to be in that position 20 years ago, and we felt that if we moved the fence forward so that the jockeys are approaching it in the uphill position, it would jump better.

"We have done something demonstrable, and I think the fence will jump extremely well.

The changes have been welcomed by the Animal Abuse Injustice and Defence Society, although they still have concerns about the surface at Sedgefield.

"The three horses that were killed in June were actually killed on good to firm ground," said the society's horse-racing consultant Dene Stansall.

"It was highlighted to them by the RSPCA in 2008 that good-to-firm ground was detrimental to horses at Sedgefield, and yet they continue to do so."

However Moore says the racecourse groundstaff have addressed the issue of good-to-firm ground and is confident of safe racing for horse and jockey in time for Tuesday's Ladies Day event.

"As far as the sport is concerned, sometimes a horse will fall, and we hope that it falls in such a way that it doesn't hurt itself.

"The horses have been trained properly and prepared properly by their trainers.

"Mark Davison, the head groundsmen and Phil Tuck have worked their socks off to get the ground in the very best condition.

"We've used a wetting agent to get the water into the ground to make it as good as we can, because we know if a ground is too fast it can enhance the risk of injury, so we have minimised that."