False starts and runaways: Grand National drama

Daryl Jacob celebrates on Neptune Collonges
Daryl Jacob celebrates on Neptune Collonges Credit: David Davies/PA Wire

Neptune Collonges ridden by Daryl Jacob won the 2012 John Smith's Grand National meeting at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool.

The race was one of the most dramatic in recent memory with Tony McCoy falling from one of the favourites Synchronised before they had reached the starting line.

Synchronised bolted and made his way independently down the course before being caught at the first hurdle.

McCoy and his mount were soon reunited but the delay in the race caused further problems as over-eager horses and jockeys caused two false starts.

Tony McCoy falls from Synchronised before the John Smith's Grand National
Tony McCoy falls from Synchronised before the John Smith's Grand National Credit: PA

Once the wire was reset the race got under way with Shakalakaboomboom taking an early lead.

Neptune Collonges eventually won by a nostril in an incredibly close photo finish, with Sunnyhillboy ridden by Richie McLernon second and the only female jockey Katie Walsh coming in third on Seabass.

It was announced shortly after the race that two horses that had fallen at different fences had been put down after suffering fractures. Synchronised and According to Pete were both destroyed at Aintree.

Neptune Collonges ridden by Daryl Jacob runs clear as According to Pete and Henry Haynes and On His Own and Paul Townshend fall at Bechers
Neptune Collonges ridden by Daryl Jacob runs clear as According to Pete and Henry Haynes and On His Own and Paul Townshend fall at Bechers Credit: PA

Professor Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), reacted to the deaths:

We are very sad about the fatal injuries suffered by Synchronised and According to Pete in the Grand National. In both cases the horse incurred a fracture to the leg and the humane option was to put the injured horses down.The Grand National undoubtedly represents a challenge to both horse and rider. It has inherent risks, but, working closely with Aintree and other stakeholders, we do all we can to minimise these risks while maintaining the unique character of the race. We will examine closely the circumstances which led to both incidents.The key data from these accidents will be collated, as is the BHA’s policy in the event of any serious equine injury. Each year the BHA and Aintree review all incidents which occur during the Grand National meeting and consider what measures can be taken to address the risk of a repeat in the future.The BHA takes its responsibility of looking after the welfare of horse and rider very seriously. We consult and work with recognised welfare organisations such as the RSPCA, SSPCA and World Horse Welfare. It is our stated objective to continue to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities which occur in racing.

Neptune Collonges ridden by Daryl Jacobs (left) goes on to win during the John Smith's Grand National
Neptune Collonges ridden by Daryl Jacobs (left) goes on to win during the John Smith's Grand National

The RSPCA has said that due to the excessive use of the whip the result should not stand and Neptune Collonges should be stripped of the win. Gavin Grant, chief executive of the RSPCA said that the race contained too many risks for the horses:

The death of two horses at the Grand National, bringing the total to three at the Aintree meeting, is totally unacceptable.This is the second year running that two horses have died. In it's current format, the risks to horses are not appropriate and we want an urgent examination of the Grand National, including a number of fences including Beecher's Brook where horses are continuing to die despite safety improvements.

It would appear the whip was overused in the final stages of the race. If that is the case it is totally unacceptable and given the narrow margin of the win I believe the result should be reversed.

Neptune Collonges ridden by Daryl Jacob (back right in yellow) clears the last fence before going on to win the John Smith's Grand National
Neptune Collonges ridden by Daryl Jacob (back right in yellow) clears the last fence before going on to win the John Smith's Grand National Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire