BHA UNMOVED AS O'NEILL JOINS CALL TO AXE WATER JUMPS
Lee Mottershead reports for the Racing Post (26.03.2008) BHA unmoved as O'Neill joins call to axe water jumps
JONJO O'NEILL on Tuesday (25.03.08) became the latest high-profile trainer to call for the abolition of water jumps, but his wish seems unlikely to be realised after both the BHA and RSPCA came out in support of the controversial obstacles.
O'Neill's East Tycoon became the second horse in the space of four weeks to be killed at a water jump when suffering a fatal fall at Ludlow last Thursday, (20.03.08) the previous casualty having been the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Miss Shakira at Huntingdon on February 21.
BHA figures show that, since the specifications of water jumps were changed in 2000, six horses have been killed at the fences, making them, according to BHA chief course inspector Richard Linley, “the safest obstacle on a racecourse”.
However, that argument cuts little ice with O'Neill, who on Tuesday followed the lead of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who, in his Racing Post column earlier this year, described the water jump as “the worst jump in racing”. “I'd demolish them and replace them all with ordinary fences,” said O'Neill. “Some might say they are less dangerous, but I don't think so. I've never been a fan of them, even when I was a jockey. Nobody has them at home and I don't see why racecourses need them. “Water jumps are trap fences. A horse approaches the fence thinking that it's only a little jump but then sees the water and suddenly changes its mind and puts in extra effort by stretching, and I think that's why they break their backs.”
Linley on Tuesday night said the BHA is “open to constructive comment” about water jumps but made clear there were no plans to follow the lead of Ireland, where the last water was negotiated in 1966. Ascot, Kempton and Wetherby are among the tracks to have removed water jumps in Britain, but Stratford and Newton Abbot have both reintroduced theirs after previously replacing them. Linley said: “It is most unfortunate to have had two fatalities in the last four weeks at water jumps, but, overall, it is a fact that the water jump is the safest obstacle on a racecourse.
“When we have canvassed jockeys, they have always told us that they don't want water jumps scrapped if that means another plain fence is introduced, as there is an inherently greater risk of injuries and fatalities at plain fences.” In similar vein, RSPCA equine consultant David Muir said: “I am not against water jumps. I just want to see them modified. They are the safest fences on racecourses, and if you replace them with normal fences, the number of fatalities will rise. “What we need to do is find a way to stop horses slipping back when landing in the water. I think we need to increase the size of the actual fence by two or three inches and the water area needs to have an effective non-slip landing zone.” That suggestion is already being taken up by Haydock, whose rebuilt water jump will feature a coarse non-slip rubber mat beneath the water.
What is a water jump?
A fence with a minimum height of 3ft is followed by an expanse of water that, from the landing side of the fence to the end of the water, measures 9ft, a width that had been 12ft before specifications made in 2000. In total, the expanse of the obstacle can vary between 11.5ft and 12ft. The water's depth is a uniform 3 inches, with the water's base made of sand, pea gravel or matting. Haydock, which, alongside Aintree, uses a fence made of privet, is introducing a non-slip rubber mat for the base of its new water jump.
Of what PROFESSIONAL NATIONAL HUNT STATUS taken in the context here
as licensed true professional Jockey's/Handler/Rider's/Trainer's do those acting and responsible for safety issues in the employ of the British Horseracing Authority hold? What riding expertise at this level does RSPCA David Muir hold? Is anyone allowed to know?
That the British Horseracing Authority personnel choose to remain unmoved as Jonjo O'Neill joins Paul Nicholls call to axe water jumps, clearly shows this authority to be indeed a cruel, harsh, and ignorant body unfit to regulate British National Hunt Horseracing at all. It further shows their utter contempt for proven National Hunt horsemen/handler/riders who have served this sport throughout their lives, at the highest level.
Prevention is key, all water jumps should be removed with immediate effect from all British National Hunt racecourses, and not necessarily replaced by any other type of fence either. Far too many distressing deaths, falls and injuries ... a totally unacceptible state of affairs.