Horses for Courses: Newbury events truly shocking

A general view of the parade ring during the Totesport Super Saturday at Newbury Racecourse. PIC: PA

A general view of the parade ring during the Totesport Super Saturday at Newbury Racecourse. PIC: PA

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WITHOUT doubt it was one of the saddest days in racing history – and unquestionably the most eerie.

And while the official post-mortem is only due today, it seems pretty obvious that both Fenix Two and Marching Song were electrocuted at Newbury on Saturday and even now it is hard to fathom.

Deaths of horses are unfortunately part and parcel of racing and that doesn’t always mean passing away gracefully when they are older.

Especially in the National Hunt game, a week rarely passes without a handful of fatalities which for the most part result from a nasty fall.

Horses can also breakdown, have an accident on the gallops, all sorts, and if you own a horse it goes with the

territory that something untoward may happen.

But how the owners of Fenix Two and Marching Song must be feeling heaven only knows, as to lose a horse in

circumstances like Saturday’s one could not envisage in a billion years.

Clearly, judgements, criticisms and to a certain degree opinions, must all be somewhat reserved until the full details are exposed.

Bbut there seems little doubting what has happened – that two racehorses were electrocuted.

Connections of Newbury racecourse were unwilling to say exactly what happened at the weekend and that is understandable – the truth is they probably still don’t exactly know – but all the evidence and comments from owners, trainers and bystanders seems to point to an electric shock.

Many have said how that by even touching Fenix Two and Marching Song an electric current could be felt and even seeing the disturbing pictures and replays from the course, it seems pretty obvious that is what went on.

But the big question of course is how did this happen?

And while horses are apparently much more susceptible to electric shocks, especially wearing metal horse shoes, this sort of thing just should not occur – and hasn’t to my knowledge in the past 100 years.

Again, the post-mortem will reveal more details, but all the talk has been of a electricity wires underneath the Newbury paddock and without the knowledge of being a qualified electrician, in my opinion, that means one of two things.

Either the voltage or proximity of the cable(s) was too strong or more likely there was a loose or broken wire or connection.

A sizeable electricity supply is clearly essential to a modern day racecourse and moreso with a showcase televised Saturday meeting – but this sort of thing has never happened before and it’s hard to believe that heads won’t roll as a consequence.

Given the circumstances, it is actually quite remerakable that there were only two equine fatalties though you sense that the Nicky Henderson-trained Kid Cassidy must have been pretty close to dying as he virtually collapsed in the paddock only to get back up and Tony McCoy reported that he went down to post like a startled rabbit.

Some sort of shock was obviously running through his system and it is little wonder that Henderson pulled him out of the race after having him checked out before the start.

But while in hindsight racing should probably have been scratched immediately after the orginal incidents, fair play to the Newbury course executive who quite rightly decided that they could not risk any further problems by running another six races after the first.

Even though the orginal plan was to close the paddock, there almost certainly would have been further complications had racing continued and as frustrating as it was to see a stellar card disappear, the right decision was definitely made.

It is hugely sad that such a decision was forced by a non-racing tragedy and both O’Neill and Henderson – whose horse survived – were close to tears afterwards.

So unsual and unfathomable were Saturday’s events that even now they are hard to comprehend and never ever could you imagine begenning a weekend racing review conversation with “what about those horses that got electrocuted’?”

A weird week for racing most definitely and strange events also occured at Folkestone on Tuesday when jockey

Hadden Frost rode out for the finish a circuit too early on board Romney Marsh.

We all make mistakes but that was pretty ridiculous and a 12-day ban seems pretty lenient. Still, in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?

Not when two horses have just inexcusably lost their lives.

Trainer Nicky Henderson with Altior.

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