Legal action is being taken against Arena Racing Company (ARC) after holes in the ground caused the death of a horse at Newcastle racecourse, writes Sophia Heath.
Six-year-old Hitman Harry (pictured) had to be put down after he severed his superficial flexor tendon during the Maiden Open National Hunt Flat race on 14 November 2014.
It emerged that the racecourse had failed to fill in the holes and repair the ground properly following the removal of the third-last hurdle. It is thought one of the gelding’s hind legs fell down a hole, which caused him to fall.
The accident led to ARC — which operates Newcastle racecourse — being fined £4,500 by the British Horseracing Authority on 18 December 2014, after it was found that the “unrepaired ground endangered horses and riders”.
ARC has admitted liability for the accident, and the horse’s owner and breeder Pauline Cowey is trying to claim £58,000 in compensation. However, three months later the case has not been settled, and she has enlisted the help of equine law specialists Shaw and Co, Newcastle.
“I had hoped that the matter could have been settled amicably to prevent further distress, and I have had to resort to solicitors’ action because of the complacency of the insurers,” she said.
“I got a letter from ARC saying it was sorry, and that it would do all it could to settle the matter swiftly.
“I sent its insurers a letter,” she added, “saying what I valued the horse at, and found out the company had had it for 10 working days without even reading it. I can’t help feeling I’m being messed about.”
Shaw and Co’s Mary Ann Charles said there seems to be “no explanation” for the lack of action from ARC.
“This has been allowed to drag on, and it is distressing. Racing is unlike almost any other business in that there is an emotional investment by owners and breeders with their horses.”
ARC’s director of external affairs Susannah Gill confirmed to H&H that the firm has accepted liability, but said that Mrs Cowey is yet to “submit full evidence in respect of her claim”.
“Our insurers are currently making enquires into quantification with their specialist equine consultants and remain in contact with her solicitors,” she added.
Ref: H&H Thursday 19 February, 2015