Page last updated at 04:32 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Australian state of Victoria bans jump racing

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

 Steeplechasing will only be held in South Australia from 2010
Changes were made recently but deaths continued this season

Steeplechase and hurdle racing in the Australian state of Victoria will be abolished in 2010, prompted by the deaths of 20 horses in two years.

The decision follows a comprehensive review of the sport and has been welcomed by animal welfare groups.

However, members of the racing industry have reacted with anger, calling it "unbelievable" and "appalling".

Racing's governing body in Victoria had conceded that the sport was in decline because of mounting safety concerns.

Furious response

There is an element of risk in many sports - without this it would become too sanitised and boring
Joe Lyndon

Animal rights campaigners have described racing over hurdles and fences as not only shameful and barbaric but "morally wrong".

An official review of the industry last year recommended a raft of new safety measures, all of which were adopted by authorities in Victoria.

Despite the changes, the fatalities have continued, with eight horses dying in races this season.

The deaths prompted an urgent investigation, which has resulted in the banning of the sport.

It has drawn a furious response from some owners, trainers and jockeys.

Steeplechase events in Victoria will go on for another year in an attempt to soften the impact of their abolition on those involved.

Neighbouring South Australia, the only other state in the country that allows jump racing, has said its programme will continue and hopes to attract trainers and horses from Victoria.

However, officials in South Australia are not celebrating and have expressed deep concerns about the long-term viability of their steeplechasing industry.

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