Race marred by
2 equine deaths
LIVERPOOL – Neptune Collonges snatched Grand National glory for jockey Daryl Jacob and trainer Paul Nicholls Saturday but the world famous steeplechase was marred by two equine deaths, including Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and leading contender Synchronised.
Outsider Neptune Collonges touched off Sunnyhillboy and rider Richie McLernon in a photo finish at Aintree with just a nose separating the pair at the line.
Joint favorite Seabass was five lengths further back in third place, having threatened at one stage to put Irish amateur Katie Walsh in the record books as the first female rider to win the race.
The thrilling finale was overshadowed by the fatal injuries suffered by Synchronised and According To Pete.
They followed unsavory scenes witnessed by millions of television viewers last year when there were also two deaths in the race while exhausted winner Ballabriggs had to be hastily dismounted after the finish line.
Synchronised, the focus of pre-race drama when he galloped off after jinking and dumping champion jockey Tony McCoy on the turf on the way to the start, fell on the first circuit of the four-and-a half-mile contest and had to be put down after suffering a broken hind leg.
The deaths are certain to put the Grand National under further scrutiny and renew calls by animal rights groups to ban the event, despite some of the more challenging fences being modified this year following a review into the 2011 race.
“After today we will, as always, be looking at all aspects of this year’s race to see how we can improve safety further,” Aintree managing director Julian Thick said in a statement.
The 2012 contest provided a first National success for both Irishman Jacob and champion trainer Nicholls, who is based in England’s West Country and is best known for guiding Kauto Star and Denman to Gold Cup triumphs at Cheltenham.
“He (Neptune Collonges) is class, it is just fantastic,” said a relieved Nicholls, winning the showpiece at the 53rd attempt after having his first runner in 1992.
“Neptune Collonges will retire now. What a fantastic horse he has been.”
Nicholls paced nervously in the parade ring before the winner was officially announced while Jacob said he “hadn’t known where the finishing line was”.
Jacob, 28, added: “You cannot beat this. I have always told Paul Nicholls that some day I would ride him a National winner.”
Neptune Collonges is the first grey to win the race since Nicolaus Silver in 1961. — Reuters