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Grand National Course at Aintree Set for Changes


After intense media scrutiny following a pair of deaths in the 2011 Grand National at Aintree, permanent changes have been announced to parts of the course that should at least alleviate the negativity emanating from newspapers and racing fans alike. While horse sports, or any activity involving an animal, will always carry a degree of risk (especially three dozen geldings going 3m and a bit over exaggerated obstacles) the adjustments got the endorsement from clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch and are set to be instituted for the 2011/12 National Hunt season.

The course will see several changes to two of the most popular of the legendary Grand National fences. The drop in the landing at Becher's Brook will be shortened by about four or five inches. Contrary to some reports, the height of the fence itself will not be altered.


The landing side of the first fence will also see further levelling and the height of the toe boards will be increased to 14 inches to give horses a better idea of determining the base of the fence.

Aintree managing director Julian Thick declared, “It is not possible to completely eliminate risk in horseracing. However, I am confident the course changes we are announcing will, over time, have a positive impact... We will continue to monitor this carefully and make further improvements and modifications to the course if required as part of our ongoing commitment to safety.”

The decision was made by the Grand National Review Group, in consultation with animal welfare groups such as RSPCA and World Horse Welfare. Leading trainers and jockeys were also questioned by the group.

The high-profile nature of such a statistically dangerous race saw tempers reach a crescendo when Ornais was seen covered by a tarpaulin by the time the field went for the second go around the course. Drop fences are said to still be under scrutiny and changes may be introduced in time.

Last year's winner Ballabriggs, a ten-year-old son of Presenting is the betting favourite to defend his National crown with a price trading at 16s.  

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