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The BBC's Adam Mynott
"Today's events have cast a long shadow over the Grand National"
 real 28k

The BBC's Cornelius Lysaght
"The course says losing four horses is a coincidence"
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Jockey club vet Peter Webbon
"If there's an injury it's obvious to a lot of people"
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banner Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Fifth horse dies at Aintree
Tragedy overshadowed the Foxhunters Chase
The death tally at this year's Martell Grand National meeting rose to five when Toni's Tip crashed at the first fence in the John Hughes Trophy Chase on Friday.

The Ferdy Murphy-trained gelding died instantly after suffering spinal injuries.

The opening day of the meeting was marred by the deaths of four horses.

The deaths are likely to prompt further alarm among animal rights campaigners already staging protests outside bookmakers ahead of Saturday's big race, even though only one of the deaths occurred over the Grand National fences.

It's very unfortunate that injuries like this do happen from time to time and it's a freak that it should happen in a small field.

Jockey club vet Peter Webbon

The casualties included Strong Promise and Lake Kariba - two of the four runners in a small field for the Martell Cup, the big race of the day.

Strong Promise died instantly after sustaining spinal injuries in an horrific fall at the sixth fence from home on the Mildmay course.

Lake Kariba completed the course in third place but collapsed and died as he left the track.

There was another death when Rossell Island was killed in the Martell Foxhunters Chase over part of the National course.

Strong Promise: Third in the recent Gold Cup

The gelding, trained by Martin Pipe's son David, sustained spinal injuries when crashing at the first fence on the National course.

There was another faller at the same obstacle and three other horses were brought down.

Then in the following race, Architect, a four-year-old hurdler, took a heavy fall at the penultimate obstacle and was killed.

Strong Promise was owned by Geoff Hubbard, who died just a week before the highly-rated horse finished third in last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Aintree deaths come just two years after the brilliant One Man was killed at the same course.

'Deeply concerned'

Animal rights campaigners have been targeting the Grand National, which is renowned as one of the most gruelling races in the world.

But two of Thursday's four deaths came on the supposedly less taxing Mildmay Course and one on the hurdles track.

"A lot of attention is focused on this course but there's no one factor you could attribute to these sort of injuries," said Jockey Club chief veterinary officer Peter Webbon.

"It's very unfortunate that injuries like this do happen from time to time and it's a freak that it should happen in a small field.

"But the fact that the Grand National is two days away is irrelevant."

"We are deeply concerned about the welfare of horses and fortunately injuries like this happen infrequently, but this is the sort of thing that could have happened anywhere in the country."

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See also:

07 Apr 00 | Grand National
National going firms up
06 Apr 00 | Grand National
National boasts maximum field
04 Apr 00 | Grand National
Grand National course dries up
04 Apr 00 | Grand National
Aintree trivia
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