Protester storms course as police hold 31 people over Epsom Derby disruption

An Animal Rising activist was dragged away by security at today's Epsom Derby, just seconds before the horses reached him, ITV News' Sangita Lal reports

The Epsom Derby Jockey Club has been accused of breaching safety procedures by failing to stop a race after an animal rights activist jumped the barrier and ran onto the track.

Police officers were seen wrestling the lone activist to the ground and dragging him off the course after the start of the race, which was won by Auguste Rodin.

Minutes later, a woman attempted to climb the fence but was pulled to the floor by police.

A total of 31 protesters attempting to disrupt the event were arrested on Saturday, including 12 in the grounds, Surrey Police have confirmed.

The Jockey Club, which owns the Epsom Downs, hit out at the activist for putting the lives of horses and athletes at risk, describing his actions as “reckless and illegal”.

Julie Harrington, of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) “strongly condemned” the Animal Rising protest group for jeopardising the safety of the animals.

ITV News Reporter Sangita Lal films the moment a protester ran along the Epsom Derby course

However a spokesman for Animal Rising, which also disrupted the Grand National in Aintree in April, said the club should have stopped the race immediately once the activist had entered the track.

It said they chose to “steam ahead regardless” as they were under “immense pressure” to finish the 1:30pm race before ITV1’s coverage switched to the FA Cup Final at around 2pm. According to the BHA rules, published on its website, a yellow Stop Race flag should be waved if there is a “major hazard ahead which is unable to be avoided”. In a statement, Animal Rising said: “It was clear to security and police that several individuals attempted to enter the track before the race began, but race organisers chose to steam ahead regardless. “The fact that the individuals involved were on the course’s last stretch is no excuse for the Jockey Club’s decision to not only start the race but then fail to follow the British Horseracing Authority ‘Stop Race’ procedures for when people are on the track. “In an industry where a horse dies every other day, it is unsurprising that the need to run the race was put above care for animals.”

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Animal Rising had warned that protesters would attempt to disrupt the event, despite a High Court injunction. The group tweeted that it would do "what's necessary" to protect the horses.

Despite pledges by activist group Animal Rising to “cancel or severely delay” the Derby, the race continued as planned shortly after the protesters were carried away.

Observers described the situation as “ludicrous” and “absolute insanity” while others thanked police for putting a stop to the protests.

A racegoer who filmed the moment the protester ran onto the course said the activist was “putting the horses in more danger” by jumping onto the track.

Jack Cummins, 23, from Cambridge, said the protester was in plain clothes “disguised as a normal racegoer” when they ran onto the course.

A protestor is tackled by police and stewards. Credit: PA

“The guy started running down the course from the hill side – to be fair to security and police they grabbed him pretty quickly and dragged him off.”

“Pretty stupid of him to do it, protesters don’t understand how well-treated these horses are – they’re putting the horses in more danger than they’ll have ever been in by jumping into the track.”

Surrey Police said 11 people were arrested at addresses in Mitcham and Byfleet in the early hours of the morning following warrants based on intelligence received ahead of the festival.

Eight people were also arrested after a vehicle stopped in Burgh Heath at about 10.20am.

All were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit public nuisance and remain in police custody.

Animal Rising protesters sat outside the entrance of the race course ahead of Derby Day. Credit: PA

“A total of 12 people have been arrested within the Epsom Downs racecourse since the event began this morning, also in connection with planned criminal activity," the force said.

"One man was arrested after he ran onto the racetrack after a race had started. He was quickly removed by event security and police officers, meaning the race was not disrupted.” Chief Superintendent Clive Davies said: “Our officers and event security responded quickly and decisively after a man ran onto the racetrack after a race had begun. “We will not tolerate criminal behaviour which puts lives in danger, including those of the animals, jockeys, security staff and our officers.”

Away from the protests, Auguste Rodin raced to glory for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore.

It looked as though 66-1 outsider King Of Steel had stolen the lead coming into the final stretch, but Auguste Rodin (9-2) was gaining with every stride and overtook him in the shadow of the post.

Auguste Rodin ridden by jockey Ryan Moore (front) wins the Betfred Derby ahead of King of Steel ridden by jockey Kevin Stott. Credit: PA

White Birch ran on for third with Artistic Star taking fourth. O’Brien – winning the race for the ninth time – said: “All the people in Coolmore have made this happen – this is a total homebred horse.

"It’s all credit to them to make this happen every day. He came with a massive reputation as a beautiful horse but he kept stepping up to all the markers all the way, which is very unusual.

“He’s totally unique – he’s out of one of the greatest Galileo mares (Rhododendron) by the greatest stallion ever in Japan. I can’t tell you, he’s totally unique.

“Ryan said it probably didn’t suit him, he would have preferred a lot stronger pace but he said he had to quicken twice, so obviously he’s so exciting for us.

“I feel so grateful and so delighted for all the lads, everyone. It’s a great pleasure for us.”

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