The Jockey Club has announced a raft of changes to Aintree Racecourse for the 2024 Grand National with the aim of improving safety.
The alterations, outlined in a five-point plan, are designed to improve horse welfare, with the headline change being a reduction in the number of runners from 40 to 34.
Three horses died during this year’s meeting alone while more than 100 animal rights protesters were arrested following protests surrounding the event.
One of the five points on the Jockey Club’s plan covers ‘investing in a number of infrastructure changes’.
The walkways in the paddock will be widened while additional pop-up irrigation will “allow for more effective watering of the course”. Fences will also be moved and shortened, and alterations will be made to the alignment of the running rail to assist with the early capture of loose horses. Foam and rubber toe boards will also be added to every fence.
Over the last decade, the Jockey Club, which operates 15 racecourses across Britain, has spent more than £2m on horse welfare measures at Aintree in Merseyside, including modifying every fence on the Grand National course after the 2012 race. More than £400,000 has also been spent on enhancing the watering system, as well as a post-race cooling and washdown area for horses.
Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of the Jockey Club, said the changes to the Grand National are part of the organisation’s “relentless focus on welfare”.
He said: “Our sport, like many other sports have done, needs 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.”