Sunday, 10 April 2011


At Aintree yesterday, jockey Peter Toole suffered serious injuries during one race, and two horses died during the running of the Grand National. Time for a discussion about the safety of horse racing? Or, if you're the Mail website, time for an attack on the BBC:

The Telegraph also took this line:

The basis of the stories seems to be remarks left on the BBC's messageboards and comments on Twitter. But did the BBC really 'cover-up' the fatalities?

At 4.53pm, BBC presenter Clare Balding tweeted to her 60,000+ followers on Twitter:

The BBC's Cornelius Lysaght also mentioned the deaths on Twitter.

But this information wasn't just shared online. At just before 5pm, Balding told viewers on BBC1:

I'm very sorry to report there were two equine fatalities in this year's Grand National - Ornias and Donney's Gate. And our thoughts are very much with the Mullins family who ownned, trained and rode Dooney's Gate; the Stewart family who owned Ornais; and the stable staff who look after them. It is the worst thing that can happen for all of them.

A few minutes later she added:

You will have gathered as I mentioned earlier the equine fatalities, it was because of those horses on the landing side that two fences were missed on the second circuit. And it does, I'm afraid, put a real dampner on the day. And I'd love to be here jubilant and all excited but it's very hard.

Richard Dunwoody replied:

It's the stable staff you have to feel sorry for - when they're handed the bridle, it's terrible.

The Telegraph also adds a comment from the BBC website's live blog:

the online commentator, Oliver Brett, wrote: “In answer to various requests, we are attempting to find out what happened to the two most serious fallers and their jockeys. We are not ignoring the issue, but don’t want to assume anything until fully aware of the facts.”

Ten minutes later, 45 minutes after the start of the race, the blog did announce the deaths.

While the Mail acknowledges Balding's tweet, it does not report her on-air remarks, or those from the blog.

'Cover-up', indeed.


  1. And if the BBC had filled the airwaves with "OMG! Dead horses!!" there could be equal "fury & outrage" that they were variously distracting from the sports coverage, upsetting the children, wallowing in grief and shoving dead horses down the viewers' throats. Metaphorically.

  2. The real irony is a work colleague on facebook slamming the Beeb and the Grand National for the barbarity of horse racing. This is from a person who marched AGAINST banning fox hunting.

  3. I'm pretty sure the Mail criticised the coverage of the electrocuted horses a couple of months back, saying the TV 'repeatedly' showed the moment of horror.

    So, basically the BBC can't win.

    But we knew that anyway

  4. If the BBC had given the deaths more prominence they would presumably have been pandering to the PC, Health and Safety lobby both papers despise so vehemently.

  5. Given the pretty nasty nature of the subject the Mail seems to be reveling in the chaos

    Going ...Mark Walsh and Quolibet
    Going ... The rider knows he's in deep trouble
    Gone ... The pair crash to the ground at the 11th

    If only they could figure out a way to insert some cartoon sound effects in the article.

    (in no way do I find the actual death or injury of horses or the riders funny only the mails attempt to take the moral high ground while standing in a sewer)

  6. What Mick Fitzgerald actually said was;

    "The thing is, you know there is an obstacle ahead, that’s what these chequered flags tell you"

    All he was was doing was letting the viewers at home know what the men on the sides waving the chequered were doing. He wouldn't have known that there was a dead horse, he can only see what the cameras are showing. He used the word obstacle because all he could see was then men waving the flags. It could have just as likely been an injured jockey, he wasn't to know.

    The only thing the BBC commentators didn't do was make a reference straight away when the field bypassed the fence. Racing commentary is different to other sports all they do is describe the action as they see it (what horses are in what position and fallers). In other races I've heard commentators say things like "horse x has had bad fall and has stayed down, we'll give you an update after the race" then continue with the running order. Horse racing commentators call it as they see it, once something has happened they just carry on with calling the race, sounds a bit harsh but that's how it is. If they had spent 20-30 seconds talking about the poor horse they would have missed out on the rest of the action and would have been criticised for that as RobH above said.

    I thought the BBC handled it sensitively after the race unlike The Mail in their article where they showed a picture of one of the horses that died in mid air split seconds before it hit the ground and died.

  7. This explains a lot about the Mail mindset. If you actually check what's happened before reporting on something, it's a "cover-up". Safe to say there are no "cover-ups" in the Mail, then.

    Oh and good news, McG - Google autocomplete now suggests "watch" as the most helpful completion to the phrase "tabloid". This is such a feat I may even consider upping my visits here from "occasional" to "infrequent".


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.