A former Grand National winner has died after narrowly winning a race at the Cheltenham Festival Trials Day on Saturday.
Many Clouds, a 10-year-old horse, collapsed of a suspected heart attack moments after beating Thistlecrack in the Cotswold Chase yesterday.
Animal rights activists said they raised concerns about Many Clouds’ health with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) prior to last year’s Grand National, believing his life to be “at serious risk” if he raced again.
A spokesman from the BHA said such incidents are “extremely rare” and that a team of veterinary staff at Cheltenham cared for Many Clouds “within seconds” of the horse displaying any signs of distress.
Dene Stansall, Animal Aid’s horseracing consultant, said: “The BHA were fully aware that Many Clouds had physically suffered in his previous races. Animal Aid reiterated this to them saying his life was at serious risk if he raced again.
“The horse had already won the Grand National and his owner nearly a million pounds in prize money.
“The horse’s wellbeing should have been the first priority. If this had been the case he’d be alive today.
“If the BHA have nothing to hide they should publish the health record of the horse and be open and answerable to questioning.”
The BHA said a post mortem will be carried out to ascertain the cause of death.
Many Clouds’s trainer, Oliver Sherwood, believes he died of a “massive heart attack”, The Guardian reports.
Robin Mounsey, spokesman for the BHA, said in a statement: “First and foremost our thoughts are with all of those who would have loved and cared for Many Clouds throughout his great career.
“It is too early to say with any certainty what happened to Many Clouds. The BHA will help coordinate a post-mortem in the coming days to ascertain the cause of the incident.
“The horse was cared for by Cheltenham’s team of vets within seconds of displaying any signs of distress. Sadly, it was not possible to save him. Incidents such as this are extremely rare.”
Mounsey added: “Sudden equine fatalities can occur at rest as well as during exercise, and among seemingly healthy horses. They affect all equestrian sports including racing, eventing and show-jumping.
“Many are caused by cardiac heart attacks or internal haemorrhage, but there also a significant proportion where a definitive cause cannot be identified.”
Stansall said Animal Aid wrote to the BHA last year to raise concerns about Many Clouds’ health.
In an email shown to the Huffington Post UK, dated March 31, 2016, Stansall wrote: “It is our view that he should be withdrawn from the race as his life will be at serious risk.
“The BHA’s duty and responsibility is to prevent him from suffering; or to be held responsible should he collapse and die in any of his future races - as can be the case with horses who suffer ‘wobbles’ - Best Mate being the most high profile, and of course, Hear The Echo who collapsed and died in the Grand National just a few years ago.”
Responding to Animal Aid’s health concerns for Many Clouds last year, Mounsey said: “The symptoms exhibited by Many Clouds after his run in the Grand National are not uncommon in racehorses after exercise. It is linked to an increase in body temperature and can be treated by providing the horse with water.
“The BHA holds a list of all horses who exhibit these symptoms in order that they can be provided with water should they show the symptoms again. There is no existing veterinary evidence which links these symptoms with racehorse fatalities.”