Radical Overhaul and Increased Safety Measures
Five major changes have been confirmed for the Grand National, the world's most famous horse race, set to take place next year. The Jockey Club, along with the British Horseracing Authority, have introduced these changes as part of their commitment to horse and jockey welfare. The alterations include a reduction in the number of runners, the relocation of one of the jumps, and adjustments to the running rail. These changes aim to enhance safety and reduce the risk for both horses and riders.
Key Features of the Changes
The changes that will be implemented for the 2024 Grand National are as follows:
- The maximum number of runners will be reduced from 40 to 34.
- The first fence will be moved 60 yards closer to the starting point to prevent horses from running too fast at the beginning.
- The off time will be brought forward to 5.15pm to ensure optimal ground conditions.
- The running rail will be altered to assist in capturing loose horses.
- The minimum handicap rating will be raised to 130 from 125.
Additional Changes and Safety Measures
In addition to the above changes, the Grand National will also introduce a standing start in order to reduce speed approaching the first jump. Fence 11 will be shortened and the landing side will be leveled off to minimize the height of the drop. Furthermore, the panel responsible for approving horses to run in the race will scrutinize horses that have made jumping errors in a significant percentage of their last eight races.
Discussion with Broadcaster ITV
The earlier running time of the Grand National will be discussed with broadcaster ITV. To accommodate the traditional Saturday 3pm kick-offs, a potential window between 3.45pm and 4.15pm may be chosen for the race. These discussions aim to ensure maximum viewership for the event.
Support from Key Figures
Trainers and former jockeys have expressed their support for the changes, emphasizing the importance of horse welfare and the need for the race to evolve. Trainer Lucinda Russell believes that reducing the field size will not affect the heritage of the race and will improve start procedures. Legendary former jockey Ruby Walsh agrees that the changes will enhance the Grand National and ensure its future.
Continued Advocacy for Horse Welfare
The RSPCA has welcomed the announced changes but continues to urge the British Horseracing Authority and The Jockey Club to do more for the welfare of horses. Emma Slawinski, the RSPCA's Director of Policy, emphasizes the importance of prioritizing horse welfare in all racing events.