Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Calls for steeplechase racing to be banned after three horses die in four races

Three horses were injured during the four jumps races at Ellerslie on Monday and had to be killed on the course. Photo / Getty
Three horses were injured during the four jumps races at Ellerslie on Monday and had to be killed on the course. Photo / Getty

Three horses died during a single race day at Ellerslie Monday, sparking calls for steeplechase racing to be banned.

The horses, Tu Meta Peta, Musashi and Bahhton, were all euthanised on the track after they fell and suffered fractures during jumps racing at Ellerslie Racecourse in the first, third and fourth races on Queen's Birthday Monday. There were four jumps races on the card.

A spectator who watched the races told the Herald the sport should be banned.

"The vets rushed over and they do it really nicely, they put a tarpaulin up and screen it off, but in my mind and the minds of people I was with, we were really confused as to how these horses were made to be fatigued and pushed to their absolute limit.

"There was just death after death after death. For me it was completely strange and unacceptable."

Auckland Racing Club chief executive Cameron George said three deaths in one race day was "not usual at all".

"But statistically where do you draw the line? It's not in anyone's vision that we want to see horses that have fatal injuries, but we sit very well compared to all forms of sport.

"We had 11 deaths on the roads [this weekend], does that mean everyone is going to stop driving? I wouldn't think so."

Mr George said the horses enjoyed the chance to compete in jumps racing.

"I think it gives horses an extra stage in their racing career and they enjoy it. They're fit, they're well looked after, that's what racing's all about.

"For those that don't know racing it's pretty hard to comment, because unless they go and see the horses during the week during training and see how they're looked after, it's hard to pass judgement on that ... but I get why someone can be sitting there from the outside looking in and be devastated by such unfortunate incidents like those that occurred the other day."

SAFE spokeswoman Mandy Carter said her organisation opposed jumps racing.

"What happened is appalling, but we've been expecting it to happen, it happens every jumps racing season," she said.

"Overseas you have famous races like the Melbourne Cup and the Grand National and there are lots of people that find them quite appalling, what the animals are forced to do and what happens as a result."

She also called for jumps racing to be banned.

"These are powerful but delicate animals, and it's not unusual that when they are injured in this way they have to euthanised, and they shouldn't be injured in that way at all.

"To think that people are betting and owners and trainers are making money, and it is costing the horses their lives."

- NZ Herald

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