Cornelius Lysaght says the future of the Grand National 'is in danger'

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent

The big question after this year's Grand National is how many more knocks can the famous race take.

For the second year running, the ever-emotive issue of horse welfare at Aintree is topping the post-race agenda ahead of the success of Neptune Collonges after a thrilling finish.

We have to be realistic and accept that the long-term future of this great British sporting institution could be in peril.

The horses racing in this spectacle have been bred for centuries to take part in this type of challenge over the large obstacles that have made the Grand National the world's best-known race.

Actually, the incidents that caused the deaths of both Synchronised and According To Pete had an element of freakishness about them.

Synchronised seems to have been fine after parting company with his jockey, AP McCoy, and ran on, enjoying jumping rider-less, before coming to grief further down the course.

According To Pete was brought down in the sort of dramatic melee which has been a traditional part of the race since its inception in the 19th century.

But despite that the headlines scream out about the horror of their deaths, especially as Synchronised was this season's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.

The racecourse has correctly said it will seek to learn from what happened, but, as with all its statements, underlines the fact this is a dangerous sport for all involved.

But we cannot get away from the fact that, for the second year running, two horses lost their lives in the Grand National.

Some Aintree fans, a grouping of which I am a life member, having been brought up with tales of derring-do around Becher's Brook and the Canal Turn, believe I am quite wrong here.

There have been accusations on Twitter and elsewhere of disloyalty for saying on BBC radio that this year's deaths provided a dark day for Aintree.

But it's unrealistic to take any other view.

Racing desperately needed a thoroughly uncontroversial race, and it absolutely didn't get it.

I am not saying that Neptune Collonges' Grand National will be the last ever, because we are still odds-on to be back in 12 months time after further modifications to the race.

The tricky drops on the landing side of fences - particularly the iconic Becher's Brook - are to be looked at, and their complete removal is a possibility.

We may well also have seen the last 40-runner race as officials consider reducing the field.

And in the occasional year when there have been fewer runners, there were 32 in 1999 and Rough Quest beat just 26 rivals in 1996, the races have been no less good.

But any changes are only to 'reduce risks'; they cannot be stamped out altogether, and that's the problem.

No one can guarantee that no horse will die, a situation that, increasingly, this society cannot, and will not, accept.

That's why I believe the Grand National finds itself in a more perilous position than ever.

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