08/15/2011 1:46PM

Aintree making Grand National fences safer


Three fences used for the Grand National steeplechase in Aintree, England, each April, including the famous Becher’s Brook, will undergo changes before racing resumes on that course in December, according to a statement released by Aintree and the British Horseracing Authority on Monday.

The changes are the result of a study conducted following the 2011 running of the Grand National, in which two of the 40 runners died as a result of injuries in the race over four miles, four furlongs. The study reviewed races run on the National course since 1990, the most recent year in which modifications were made.

The four major changes recommended will raise the landing side of Becher’s Brook by four to five inches, leaving a drop of six to 10 inches compared to the takeoff side. The height of the fence will remain at 4 feet, 10 inches. Becher’s is the sixth and 22nd fence of the 32 jumped in the two-circuit race.

The landing side of the first fence will be leveled to reduce the drop. Some horses take that fence too quickly following a lengthy run from the start. One horse was fatally injured at that fence this year.

Also, the fourth fence will be reduced by two inches, to 4 feet, 10 inches; and the orange toe boards, on the bottom of the takeoff side of each fence, will be raised to 14 inches, giving horses a better perspective of the base of the fence.

Earlier this year, 19 of the 40 starters finished the Grand National. Three horses fell and one was brought down at Becher’s.