An investigation is taking place into the death of Venn Ottery at Newbury last Saturday. The 12-year-old gelding passed a veterinary examination prior to the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase but was pulled up before fence eight by jockey Andrew Glassonbury. He was found to have a fractured pelvis and was put down.
“We will be speaking to the people involved about the facts that led to Venn Ottery suffering a fractured pelvis,” said a spokesperson for the Horseracing Regulatory Authority. “Once we’ve done that we’ll review the situation and possibly the rules.”
Venn Ottery was one of two 200-1 starters in the eight-runner race. His career highlights included a fifth place in the 2004 Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival but a recent succession of non-completions had led trainer Sue Gardner to doubt his form. She told the Racing Post that owner Oliver Carter declared the horse against her wishes. “As the rules stand an owner has the right to declare a horse, even though they are not a licensed trainer,” explained the HRA spokesperson.
But according to the HRA, Gardner could have used her position as a trainer to prevent Venn Ottery from running. “The trainer does always have the option of taking the horse out of his or her yard, in which case the horse is no longer in training and thus cannot race.”
Oliver Carter, who is a permit holder, stands by his decision to run the horse. “We are animal lovers and we don’t uphold cruelty. What happened to Venn Ottery was one of those accidents that happen in racing,” he told the Racing Post.
The incident has prompted the HRA to consider reviewing the rules. “At present if a horse has had more than five consecutive non-completions in steeple chases and hurdles it cannot run. But this does not apply to point-to-points,” explained the spokesperson. “If point-to-points were included, Venn Ottery would have had seven non-completions in a row.”
According to the HRA the accident is unlikely to be connected to the level at which Venn Ottery was competing. “Those that are blaming Venn Ottery’s death on the fact he was running in a Grade Two race are probably missing the point,” said the spokesperson. “The chances are that had Venn Ottery ran in a handicap of point-to-point he would have suffered the same injury.
“Our job is to minimise the risks involved in racing. We need to ask ourselves how this could have been prevented.”