Electrocution Horror at Newbury
With the Cheltenham Festival drawing nearer, races to test the endurance and strength of horses are vital to trainers and owners. Newbury was gearing up for a packed race card on Saturday, 12 February 2011, when two horses were fatally electrocuted in the parade ring. The tragedy that left spectators standing aghast and trainers running to remove their horses from harm’s way saw the closure of the racing card. Newbury hopes to reopen the racing card soon, once the investigation into the deaths has been completed, and steps taken to avoid another incident.
There were horses in the parade ring before the tragic event, but the fact that Marching Song and Fenix Two had steel shoes, as opposed to the aluminum the others were wearing, seems to have made the difference. Rebecca Curtis, trainer of Merry Giant, said that her horse was showing signs of distress and did briefly got down on his back legs, confusing his trainer and jockey as to what the problem might be. The veterinarian did clear him to run, but Curtis said that in hindsight, if she knew then what the cause was she would not have run her horse. Nicky Henderson’s horse, however, was the first horse to start performing in the parade ring, and due to the distress shown, Henderson withdrew Kid Cassidy.
It was found that an underground electricity cable must have been disturbed while maintenance was being done to the parade ring in anticipation for the weekend’s events. Speaking about the cancelation of the race card and the deaths of the two horses, Henderson commented: "There were other trainers who felt that racing should have continued once the parade ring had been isolated but I understand that in the circumstances it can't possibly have been an easy decision for Newbury to take. It was something that none of us have ever seen before and we hope never to see again." He went on to say: "This game that we're in is all about horses and everybody loves horses. I think they suffered little. There was a brief moment when they staggered around and then they were on the ground and they died. I think our horse was extremely lucky as he definitely got the effect of it."
The British Horseracing Authority said that their investigation was still ongoing, but it seems that it was an isolated tragedy. Once the investigative committee is satisfied that there is no more danger posed to the horses and that Newbury Racecourse is again safe for racing, the race card will be reopened and horses can begin to start their preparations for the Cheltenham Festival.