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Grand National is daft and I won't return, says devastated owner
9:00am Monday 16th April 2012 in News
THE owner of a North Yorkshire horse killed in the Grand National has spoken of his devastation and described the steeplechase as "daft", amid growing calls to ban the race.
Peter Nelson, of Helperby, near Thirsk, said entering According To Pete into the four-and-a-half mile Aintree race had been "a fairytale" but said he would never enter the race again, after his worst fears were realised when the gelding was brought down after jumping Becher's Brook for the second time.
The 11-year-old steeplechaser suffered an untreatable foreleg fracture and, was put down by a vet, as was last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronized, who also suffered a fracture after unseating his rider at the same fence on the first circuit.
Mr Nelson, who runs an MOT garage, said: "I haven't slept and my family is devastated. He was part of the family. He had won £200,000 in prize money, but we loved him as he had such a strong character; he was a lovely horse. When you fed him a couple of polo mints he would go for them and eat the whole packet."
"After the race I lost it in minutes. Everyone in the pub was having a great time watching the race - at the end of the race it was silent and everyone went home.
"People in the village have been very upset. I can't tell you how many cards I've had posted through the letterbox and I've been given flowers and a bottle of wine."
The 71-year-old said after coming from humble beginnings, owning a thoroughbred had been a dream and entering a horse into the Grand National had been a once in a lifetime opportunity to end North Yorkshire's five-decade wait to win the race.
He said: "As a yearling, the gelding loved to jump - we had rails across the paddock and he hiked over the fence. He could jump his way out of anything."
Mr Nelson said he felt According To Pete, who was trained by trainer Malcolm Jefferson, of Norton, and won 11 races including the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day, would have had a good chance of winning if he got in front at the first fence.
But he said his main concern had been that the horse made it round the course safely and that winning would have been a bonus.
He said: " If he had won I would have paraded him down the street. But now I will never enter the race again. I know I've had a bad experience, but it's daft, there are 40 horses running and any of them could be brought down at any time, like According To Pete was. You can't make the jumps easier because it is an international race. But two horses were killed and two more are fighting for their lives."
The deaths bring the number of horses killed at the Grand National in the past 50 years to 36. Including Saturday's deaths, 41 horses have been killed on UK racecourses this year.
Two other horses, Killyglen and Weird Al, were receiving veterinary treatment yesterday after falls in the race.
Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, said: "The Grand National is a disgusting and shameful spectacle masquerading as sport. There is nothing sporting about an event that routinely kills so many horses. For anyone who genuinely cares about horses, watching this race was an utterly depressing and melancholy experience."
Julian Thick, managing director of Aintree Racecourse, said: "We are desperately sad at these two accidents and our sympathies are with the connections of both.
"Since last year's race we have made further significant changes to the course and there have been four races run over the course without serious incident since then. After today, we will, as always, be looking at all aspects of this year's race to see how we can improve safety further."