Three horses die on opening day of Cheltenham
The opening day of the Cheltenham horse racing festival was marred by the death of three horses.
Animal welfare groups reacted with anger after 11-year-old Scotsirish, 13-year-old Garde Champetre and seven-year-old Educated Evans all lost their lives in competition.
Nine horses have now died at the race track in the last five years.
Scotsirish and Garde Champetre were both competing in the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase with Scotsirish the favourite for the race.
However he had to be euthanised after breaking his hind legs while Garde Champetre lost his action and had to be destroyed.
Animal Aid's Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: "The race in which Scotsirish and Garde Champetre were killed should never have taken place, given that it was run on dangerously firm ground.
"The layout of the cross-country course does not allow the operators to soften the going by watering what was officially termed 'good to firm' ground.
"Rather than take the precautionary step of calling off the race, officials risked the lives of the horses, and two paid the ultimate price."
Clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, defended the cross-country race: "Regrettably we had three fatalities, two in the cross-country race. We'd had 27 races and 375 runners on the (cross-country) course since 2000 and up until today only one fatality.
"We try to minimise the risk as much as we can, but sadly these things happen."
Willie Mullins, trainer of Scotsirish, said: "He picked up an injury jumping the Canal Turn fence. It's unfortunate as I thought he'd have gone very close.
"I'd been delighted with the way he'd taken to the discipline, but I've got no complaints about the ground whatsoever."
Educated Evans, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, fell two out in the concluding event of the day - the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase - but again Stansall said the horse was put under unfair pressure.
"Novice horse Educated Evans was unable to survive in an extremely crowded race that tested his ability to breaking point," said Stansall.
"More horses have been killed at Cheltenham Racecourse than at any other in the country over the past five years - a little known statistic that the owners of the course will not be keen to share with the paying punters.
"Animal Aid protestors will be at Cheltenham Racecourse on Wednesday to remind race-goers of the heavy price paid by horses at this notorious event."