A long-distance chase at Cheltenham was abandoned due to the heat when temperatures hit 25 degrees yesterday (19 April).
Just seven weeks after Britain was hit by thick snow and plummeting temperatures due to the “beast from the east”, the 3m2f JRL Group Mares’ Handicap Chase on Cheltenham’s all-mare card on Thursday was not run on welfare grounds.
Some of the horses running in previous races had been found to be suffering from heat stress and, following a consultation between jockeys, trainers and the veterinary staff, the decision was made, due to the length of the race.
The Richard Hobson-trained Dame Rose died from a heart attack after finishing fourth in the opening race. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) confirmed it was not known whether her death was caused by heat stress, but there will be a post mortem.
The three races that followed the abandonment were run over shorter distances and completed without incident.
The decision split opinion among trainers, with Donald McCain suggesting it set a “dangerous precedent” for summer jump racing and the sport in general.
He later added on Twitter: “For the record, what I said today at Cheltenham was that I was happy to race. But if it was too hot for one race, it was too hot for all and the rest of the meeting should be abandoned — you cannot pick and choose which horses are safe by distance.”
The Jockey Club has moved to compensate owners of horses declared to run in the abandoned race.
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“These were exceptional circumstances today and we fully support the stewards’ decision to abandon our fourth and longest distance race due to the heat,” said Ian Renton, Jockey Club regional director for Cheltenham and the southwest. “As a sport, it’s imperative we put the welfare of horses first.
“As such, we also think it is an appropriate gesture of goodwill to the owners of all declared horses in the race to receive compensation towards the travel expenses they will have incurred.”
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In this week’s magazine, out on Thursday 19 April 2018, don’t miss our special report from the British Dressage Winter Championships, plus full analysis from the Grand National — including expert comment, pictures and more. Read our report from the dressage and showjumping World Cup finals, and in this week’s ‘vet clinic’ we discuss the facts about fitness.