Concerns for the safety of the horses running in today’s Grand National have been heightened by a last-minute change to the course, namely the addition of the controversial new “Level Crossing” fence.
The fence, which animal rights campaigners are calling ‘a timebomb waiting to happen’, consists of the seemingly trivial obstacle of a pair of standard-gauge British railway track rails, complete with sleepers and light ballast. More contentious, however, is the fact that at random intervals a 240-ton Class 31 diesel locomotive express train will use said track to thunder across the racecourse without any warning, instantly killing anything in its path.
“It’s just sick that people are prepared to see animals put through this level of danger for entertainment,” complained Felicity Dainty of the Harold branch of the Royal Society For Preventing Horses Being Sliced Asunder By Transportation (RSFPHBSABT). “We at the RSFPHBSABT are as sporty as the next man, but would it really hurt to replace the level crossing with a safer, more manageable obstacle like, say, a giant circular saw sweeping back and forth relentlessly? We have to move with the times, after all.”
Once an accepted side of the sport, injuries to horses are becoming politically more sensitive year after year. Only last season the Jockey Club was forced to defend its use of cluster bombs around the track for the Derby, and there were red faces at Royal Ascot when the tactical nuclear missile sited in the fourth fence was detonated by a trailing hoof, causing grave injury to the horse as well as three million immediate human deaths, the advent of nuclear winter and the reversion of mankind into the dark ages.
“This is just the sort of thing we’ve been warning about,” claimed an RSPCA spokesman.