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Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Newbury reschedules meeting following horse deaths


Horses 'had no chance' at Newbury - Henderson

Newbury racecourse has rescheduled its Saturday meeting, which was abandoned following the deaths of two horses, for Friday, February 18.

An investigation was launched after Fenix Two and Marching Song died in the paddock, with trainers suggesting they had been electrocuted.

A section of electricity cable was dug up and removed from the Berkshire track's paddock on Sunday.

Friday's card is subject to approval by the British Horseracing Authority.

The results of post-mortems on the two horses are due to announced by Thursday.

"Post-mortem analysis of a horse and associated samples takes a certain amount of time and this work is proceeding as a matter of urgency," said British Horseracing Authority spokesman Paul Struthers.

"Forensic laboratory tests are proceeding with a similar urgency and we expect to know the initial results no later than Thursday. Only once we have these results will we be able to make a more detailed statement."

However, trainer Nicky Henderson, who had horses running at Newbury on Saturday, told BBC Radio 5 live: "What we all speculated and what seemed the most likely answer [electrocution] has turned out to be the case."

It has been reported that drainage work at the course may have disturbed an underground cable.

Struthers said an investigation is being held in tandem with Newbury Racecourse and Southern Electric.

Stephen Higgins, the racecourse's joint managing director, said: "We have been reassured that the site is safe and we hope that the final results of this investigation will be established as soon as possible.

"Once again, we extend all our condolences to the connections of the two horses who died."

Stuart Hogarth, operations director for the electricity firm, added: "A full investigation is already underway. A section of electricity cable has been removed from the paddock area for further detailed inspection."

Fenix Two and Marching Song were about to be mounted by their jockeys on the grass on the far side of the parade ring before the first race when they fell to the ground and died, while Kid Cassidy and The Merry Giant were also affected.

Henderson withdrew his horse Kid Cassidy from the opening race, which was completed before officials decided to abandon the meeting.

I was astonished they went ahead with the race, but I'll be honest and admit I didn't make any complaint

Jockey Robert Thornton

He has backed the decision to reschedule the meeting for Friday.

"Firstly our condolences go out to the connections of Marching Song and Fenix Two, secondly I am pleased to report our vet checked Kid Cassidy on Saturday evening and all is fine with him," he said.

"No-one would ever wish to see a repeat of last Saturday's tragic events.

"Equine along with human safety is foremost in everyone's mind who is involved with horse racing.

"I feel it's important that racing at the course should resume and I whole-heartedly support Newbury's and the BHA's decision to restage the remaining races of last Saturday's fixture and we will be sending our intended runners from our stable to the course."

Champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls welcomed the restaging of the meeting, adding: "Last Saturday's unprecedented event was very tragic and our team wishes to extend its thoughts to connections of those horses affected.

"We support 100% the decision to race on Friday at Newbury racecourse and we will be sending our runners to this fixture."

Henderson said that Saturday's tragedy was like a scene from a novel by jockey-turned-bestselling author Dick Francis.

"It was something that none of us have ever seen before and we hope never to see again," Henderson told 5 live.

"Kid Cassidy was just walking round and went over on to the grass and knuckled over for a second.

"It does appear it was to do with electricity and underground cables and obviously nobody knew it was there."

As an inquiry continues into what happened on Saturday, trainer William Muir said one of his horses showed similar traits of anguish in the same area of the paddock before a race at Newbury in September.

The Hungerford handler said Island Sunset was withdrawn before the Dubai Duty Free Stakes on September 18 after becoming upset in the parade ring.

"I rung Newbury this morning just to say that when she was due to race, that for some unapparent reason she started to throw herself around," Muir told 5 live.

"She didn't touch the grass - she was on the rubber matting.

"I just wanted Newbury to know that it happened, and they said they were going to look into all possibilities.

"This might be coincidence because horses have got upset on any racecourse at times.

"But she's been a filly who was very relaxed after every race, before and after.

"She hasn't done anything like it before or again - it was totally out of character and it only got my attention because it was in the same area where those horses got upset on Saturday."

Champion jockey Tony McCoy, who was on board Kid Cassidy on Saturday, said his mount was difficult to control.

"When we did eventually get out on to the course the horse took off like a startled rabbit. Something very odd had happened to him to make him act like this," he wrote in his column for the Daily Telegraph.

"Even when we got to the start, he was still very 'hyper'. I was doing my best to calm him down, talking to him, patting him and walking round quietly. I was trying to get him to relax, but not having much effect."

He added: "When I got back to the weighing room nobody knew for sure what the problem was.

"If there was electricity coming through the ground, and that seems the most likely scenario now, I suppose the metal racing shoes the horses were wearing would have sealed their fate. Saturday was certainly the most unreal day I've ever experienced on a racecourse."

Jockey Robert Thornton, who rode Yorgunnabelucky, said he was surprised the opening race was allowed to go ahead after the tragedy.

"As far as we jockeys were concerned, everyone was stunned," he said in his Racing Post column.

"The atmosphere was eerie. I've never known anything like it on a racecourse.

"I'm sure I wasn't the only jockey who thought the card would be cancelled at that point. I was astonished they went ahead with the race, but I'll be honest and admit I didn't make any complaint.

"So many things happen in racing and you just have to get on with it, and so when there was no announcement, we just carried on."

The incident at Newbury was part of a bleak weekend for horse racing.

At Warwick, the Colin Tizzard-trained racehorse Kilmurry broke down badly before having to be destroyed.

In Ireland, two horses died after the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown. Runner-up Glencove Marina collapsed shortly after crossing the line while Money Trix was pulled up and later put down.

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see also
Tragedy at the races
14 Feb 11 |  Horse Racing
Newbury horse 'lucky to survive'
13 Feb 11 |  Horse Racing
Inquiry launched after horses die
12 Feb 11 |  Horse Racing
BHA chief Nic Coward on Newbury horse deaths
13 Feb 11 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing

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