Bishop & Sewell

Since 2000, 16 horses have died at the Grand National, with a total of 64 horses killed at the Aintree Festival writes David Little, a Partner in our Corporate and Commercial  department who increasingly handles Sports Law cases too.

Earlier this month the Jockey Club said action needed to be taken to ensure the safety of horses and jockeys. Adjustments to the race include moving the first fence, bringing forward the start time, and raising the entry criteria to ensure only horses of the highest quality are entered.

The Grand National will be reduced from 40 to 34 horses in an attempt to make the race safer after three deaths at the Aintree Festival earlier this year. This is the first reduction to the number of entrants for 40 years for the country’s toughest but most popular horse race.

The first fence will also be moved 60 yards closer to the start in an attempt to slow the early stages – among changes that follow animal welfare protesters trying to gain entry to the track in April to prevent the race going ahead.

Foam and rubber toe boards will also be introduced on every fence, while changes will be made to the alignment of the running rail to assist with the early capture of loose horses.

There will also be changes to the pre-race parade which was found to heighten tension for horses in front of the excitable crowd by the main grandstand. Instead of being led by a handler, horses will be allowed to “canter in front of the stands at their own pace,” the Jockey Club said.

In addition to lowering the height of the fences by two inches there will be a standing start to the race in an attempt to reduce the speed horses approach the first fence rather than a rolling start.

The race has caused controversy for years. So some might say these adjustments are years’ overdue. One horse suffered a broken neck during the Grand National in April – among three deaths at Aintree this year.

Jockey Club chief executive, Nevin Truesdale, said the sport had to: “Recognise when action needs to be taken to evolve because the safety and care of horses and jockeys will always be our number one priority”.

He added: “In making these changes at Aintree we are underlining our relentless focus on welfare and our commitment to powering the future of British racing.”

The start time will also be brought forward from 5.15pm – which was optimised in recent years for television between the day’s main football matches – after organisers found the later start led to the racing surfacing drying out and firming up the track.

They say “good to soft ground is optimal for jump racing”, but talks with ITV continue.


Contact our Sports Solicitor

David Little, is a Partner in the Corporate & Commercial team and also Head of Sports Law for the firm. If you would like to contact him please quote Ref CB429 on either 07968 027343 or 020 7631 4141 or email

The above is accurate as at 23 October 2023. The information above may be subject to change.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 23rd Oct 2023

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