CHELTENHAM, England (AP) _ An investigation began Friday into the death of 10 horses during the three-day National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham this week.
Four horses died during Tuesday’s races, two on Wednesday and four more on Thursday. Among the fatalities was Monsier Le Cure, who fell and broke his neck at the sixth fence of Thursday’s prestigious Gold Cup.
``I have been here for 19 years and I have never known anything like it,″ Philip Arkwright, clerk of the course, said. ``In fact, four of the 10 deaths were flat racing accidents _ what the vets call impact shatters _ and did not occur at the jumps.
``It is probably the speed that does it. In a championship race, horses and jockeys go that much faster and, when they do, falls tend to be fatal.″
A veterinary report into the deaths will be turned over to the Jockey Club.
``We are as concerned as everyone else and it is very unfortunate,″ Cheltenham managing director Edward Gillespie said. ``We will be looking at the veterinary reports and post mortems, as we always do.″
``One factor is the pace the races are run at,″ he said. ``A lot of the horses are flat racers who have a lot of speed,″ he said. ``Before, jumping horses couldn’t go at the speeds they do now, even if they wanted to.″
The RSPCA, which plans to monitor the veterinary report, called for reducing the limit of horses in Cheltenham races.
``When you get that many horses bundling up at a hurdle, the poor devils can’t see where they are going,″ spokesman Bernard Donegan said. ``Our views on it are no secret _ it’s a recipe for disaster.″