The deaths of two of the 40 runners in Saturday’s Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree in England have cast a pall over the famous race, with two other horses succumbing to injuries in races at the same meeting.
Eclair Surf, an eight-year-old who fell at the third fence of the Grand National, died of head injuries after being transferred to Liverpool University’s equine hospital. Discorama, who pulled up before the 13th fence, was diagnosed with an untreatable pelvic injury and later euthanised.
The first fatality of the meeting was Solwara One, who was pulled up on the flat during the Alder Hey and Aintree Handicap Hurdle, run on Aintree’s Mildmay Course on Friday, April 8. Aintree’s Veterinary Advisor Professor said Solwara One was attended to by the veterinary team “but after thorough examination it was determined that very sadly he had sustained an unrecoverable injury.”
In Saturday’s opening race, before the Grand National on April 9, Elle Est Belle collapsed and died at the finish line of a suspected heart attack after running fourth in the Betway Mersey Novice Hurdles.
Since 2000, 58 horses have died at the Aintree meeting, and 14 horses have lost their lives in the Grand National itself since that year.
The race was won by the Emmet Mullins-trained Noble Yeats, ridden by amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who owns the Portman Dental Care firm. Noble Yeats, a seven-year-old by Yeats, was still a novice over fences when he started on Saturday. Noble Yeats worked his way from the rear of the field to take up a prominent position at halfway, and saw off the gallant runner-up Any Second Now after a protracted duel up the run-in to win in tenacious style.
Only 15 of the 40 starters crossed the finish line.
Irish bred Noble Yeats was bought for £75,000 by Edinburgh Woollen Mills at the 2019 Tattersalls Cheltenham December Sale from Donal and Brian Hassett. He was originally bought as a store for €6500 at the 2018 Tattersalls Ireland August Sale.
Waley-Cohen, who turns 40 on April 15, second in the 2011 Grand National on Oscar Time, and was fifth on his father’s horse Liberthine in 2007. He won the delayed 2010 King George VI Chase in January 2011 on Long Run, preventing Kauto Star from winning the race for a record fifth consecutive year, and won the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Long Run. Saturday’s win was his seventh on the course from 41 rides. He announced before the race that the Grand National would be his last ride.