The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Welfare is a top priority... and racing has responded
HERE’S a tale of two racehorses and their contrasting fortunes once their racing careers ended.
Otago Trail had a long and successful career racing under trainer Venetia Williams. A veteran that danced every dance. He retired two years ago and was rehomed. Circumstances changed at his new home, no doubt due to Covid, some Williams took responsibility and brought him back to the yard.
On Twitter last night, Williams reiterated that all horses at her Aramstone stables receive an aftercare service.
Of course, those that watched Panorama last Monday know that’s not the case for Vyta Du Roc. He was one of three horses inhumanely shot in an abattoir. A gallant grey that finished fifth when joint-favourite for the Scottish Grand National in 2016 and he’d have been second in the Neptune (now the Ballymore) Novices’ Hurdle the year before if it wasn’t for a mistake at the last. He still finished fourth.
He switched yards from Nicky Henderson to Gordon Elliott in October 2019 and had two poor races. The last one on the crosscountry banks of Punchestown where he received an injury that forced his retirement and led to a grisly end.
Vyta Du Roc deserved better. He won more than £175,000 in prize money, so splashing out on a few extra quid for a humane ending to his career should not have been a hardship for anyone involved in his post-racing days. Fortunately, and it is important to stress this, I am confident that at least 90 per cent of racehorses, injured or not, enjoy a story like Otago Trail’s. Social media has been awash with owners, trainers, jockeys and stable staff explaining and showing the tremendous care racehorses receive around the clock.
There are lessons to be learned. The tracking of horses must be improved upon, perhaps the BHA’s aftercare fund of £2.4million should be bigger given racing is an estimated £5bn industry and there is a case that overbreeding is leading to too many horses being produced which has a knock-on effect on too much racing for too little prize money.
In terms of welfare, Irish racing has more to answer for. Elliott was named and shamed again two months before his ban expires. The disgraced abattoir isn’t under racing authorities’ jurisdiction but it is in the sport’s best interest to trace every thoroughbred and prevent such an ending for racehorses.
The vast majority of owners realise that a racehorse is for life not just the track and once the horse’s on-course career is over, they should liaise with the trainer and find a suitable place for the horse to enjoy a well-earned retirement.