Security will be “tight” at the next high-profile meeting of the race calendar after animal rights fanatics attempted to wreck the Grand National.
Taking place at Epsom Downs on Friday and Saturday 2nd and 3rd June, the Derby draws crowds of up to 125,000 and was a favorite of the late Queen, who missed it just three times during her 70-year reign, including last year.
But there are fears that Animal Rising – the offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, formerly known as Animal Rebellion behind Saturday’s disturbance in Aintree, which saw 118 arrests – could target the event.
Other major horse gatherings that may be targeted include Royal Ascot, on June 22.
Animal Rising – which wants to ban all forms of horse racing – brazenly held a Zoom meeting last night to discuss next tactics after its attempt to stop the Grand National fell through.
Security will be ‘tight’ at next high-profile race calendar meeting after animal rights fanatics tried to wreck the Grand National
It is feared that Animal Rising – the offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, formerly known as Animal Rebellion behind Saturday’s disturbance in Aintree, which saw 118 arrests – could target the event
The group claimed yesterday that it planned to take further direct action over the summer and would announce the next focus of its protests later in the week.
But a race source said: “Security will be tight at the Derby to ensure racing can continue and minimize the chance of disruption.”
Animal Rising protesters were urged last night by former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith to ‘stop and realize the consequences of their actions’.
He was speaking after the trainer of Hill Sixteen, the horse that died in the Grand National, said he was agitated by a delay in the start of the race while activists were cleared.
Sir Iain said: ‘These people who claim to say they are for animal rights end up damaging lives. They need to stop realizing the consequences of their actions. These consequences hurt their own cause.’
Last year, six female Animal Rebellion protesters wearing sashes that read “Animal Justice” ran onto the track on Saturday and had to be removed by police.
The Jockey Club, which owns Epsom Downs, said it would not comment on safety.
Meanwhile, a Royal Ascot spokesman said: ‘Safety at Royal Ascot is always a high priority and we will work closely with industry colleagues and the police as usual.’
Taking place at Epsom Downs on Friday and Saturday 2-3 June, the Derby draws crowds of up to 125,000 and was a favorite of the late Queen, who missed it just three times during her 70-year reign, including last year
Also yesterday, the RSPCA called for further safety reforms of the Grand National – as race chiefs defended the event as ‘safer than it has ever been’ and a trainer blamed ‘ignorant’ protesters for more fallen horses than usual this year.
The charity is calling for fewer horses to be raced and for jockeys to lose their whips after dozens of Animal Rising protesters stormed the field at Saturday’s annual race.
Three horses – Hill Sixteen, Dark Raven and Envoye Special – died last week during the three-day Aintree Festival.
RSPCA policy director Emma Slawinski told BBC Radio 4’s Today program yesterday: ‘One of the things we see particularly at the Grand National is a really big field, so a lot of horses running together.
‘Of course that causes problems if horses fall and can get in the way of other horses and cause accidents.
“The other thing that we think needs to change very urgently is to end the use of the whip for encouragement – beating the horses to make them run faster.”
The group claimed yesterday that it planned to take further direct action over the summer and would announce the next focus of its protests later in the week
But Nevin Truesdale, CEO of The Jockey Club, which owns Aintree Racecourse in Merseyside, said measures have been taken in recent years, including softer ground and smaller obstacles.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “We cannot ignore what has happened in terms of the fatalities we have seen and every death we see is one too many.
“The fact that 99.8 percent of horses in all races return safely from races – that has dropped by a third in the last decade – the sport is safer, the Grand National is safer than ever before.
“But that doesn’t mean we stop our relentless drive to improve welfare standards.”
Mr Truesdale admitted that ‘you will never completely eliminate risk in the sport’, but said horses were ‘born and bred to race’ and that the activity ‘stimulates breeding and sustainability of the breed itself’.
Sandy Thomson, Hill Sixteen’s trainer, pointed to eight fallers at the first two fences this year, compared to an average of two over the past nine years.
Animal Rising protesters were urged last night by former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith to ‘stop and realize the consequences of their actions’
He said, “This year everyone was very tense about it — horses, jockeys, starters — and there were eight fallers at those first two fences.
“This has all been caused by those so-called animal lovers who are actually ignorant and completely clueless about horse welfare.”
But he admitted changes could still be made to make the sport safer, including “a shorter run to the first fence and a few fewer horses on the field” than the 40 who normally run.
The League Against Cruel Sports said the death toll at the Aintree Festival now stands at 62 horses since 2000 – with 16 killed at the Grand National, including two last year.
Those arrested on Saturday were released through Sunday and into yesterday, and dozens are expected to appear in court on various charges.