JOCKEY Katie Walsh has defended horse racing against claims the Grand National is cruel to animals ahead of Saturday’s race at Aintree.
The death of two horses last year prompted criticism of the renowned steeplechase and took the number of fatalities in the last 12 years into double figures.
But Walsh, the highest-placed female jockey in the race’s history, having finished third aboard Seabass 12 months ago, and the sister of two-time National winner Ruby, insists the animals are treated very well.
“These horses are so well looked after, better than some children, to be honest with you,” she said.
“Sure, it’s a dangerous sport. But every night, all over the world, a lot of horses are left out in fields starving. I don’t read the criticism because it’s not worth it. At the end of the day, it would be a lot worse if it had been two jockeys who lost their lives. I think everyone should remember that.”
Changes have been made to the fences and start line for this weekend’s race following the death of 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According To Pete in last year’s Grand National.
Organisers have replaced wooden fences with ones made of a more flexible plastic, while the start has been moved forwards 90 yards to a quieter part of the course in the hope of ensuring that jockeys and horses keep calm.