Robbie Power Slams Grand National Protests As ‘Irresponsible’
The Grand National protests caused a stir at Aintree on Saturday so we asked Robbie Power for his reaction to the events that unfolded.
One of the big talking points following the Grand National 2023 was the protests that delayed the race.
Some of the fallout afterwards has been the discussion as to – were these protesters right to protest on the issue of horse welfare? And did these protests that delayed the race ultimately end up endangering the horses running in the Grand National?
Our horse racing ambassador Robbie Power, a Grand National winning jockey and well respected voice in the world of horse racing, didn’t pull any punches when talking about the Grand National protests at Aintree on Saturday.
Grand National Protests Were Irresponsible
I think the way they protested was irresponsible and with no respect for health and safety for any animal or rider in the race.
We all know how big of a race the Grand National is, and I am speaking from experience myself as a jockey. I have ridden horses in the National that you might want to get them down to the start very late on as you want to keep them nice and relaxed, especially those that are a bit highly strung, it didn’t play to their strengths.
I witnessed a lot of horses being brought into the parade ring quite late, which is how some trainers like to do it. These horses are in the ring, walking around for a long period of time and the next thing, we’re told they can be taken out if they want to.
When you take a horse out of the ring like that, it completely upsets their routine. Not every horse is the same, you have to treat each one differently. They were taken out of routine and it upsets them.
I cannot remember a Grand National where we had that many fallers over the first few fences so, statistically, you’d have to say it didn’t help.
Delay Caused By Protests Upset Horses’ Routine
Horses are finely tuned, they are no different to humans.
Some footballers can get revved up at the slightest incident in a match and be on the edge, a manager takes them off as they could be sent off. A horse is the same, coming out for a big occasion, they can get more excited and any delay can upset their routine.
What the protestors did was not in the best interests of welfare for the horses.
Is The Grand National A Safe Race?
I think it is safe. Since the last set of modifications, the National in general has been a much safer race, an awful lot less fatalities. It is definitely going in the right direction.
Should The Grand National Field Size Be Reduced?
I don’t think the field size should be reduced as it will take something away from what is the best steeplechase in the world. I am fully convinced that when these things go off as planned, there will be less accidents.
The fact there was a big disruption is leading me more and more to believe it was the reason there were so many fallers.
I don’t think you can ever make racing completely safe
I don’t think you can make it completely safe. What Aintree and the BHA has done in the past few years has worked, the statistics prove that. When you have animals, there are going to be accidents. Even if it’s a flat race, there is the odd occasion horses get injured.
It’s an awful lot safer than when I first raced in 2005. In 20 years, we have come a long way.
The disruption to the race did not help jockeys or horses.
Will There Be Protests At Punchestown?
I think Ireland is a bit more sympathetic. Look, in every country there are people that like and dislike things, such as racing, that will always be the case and you will never change their mind, and that’s fine.
But in general, the Irish people are great sporting people whatever it is. There is a huge following for racing in both Britain and Ireland.
I can’t see there being any big protests at Punchestown next week.
National Hunt racing in Ireland is in a very strong place at the moment.
I Can See Protests Like This Happening Again
There has been huge improvement in racing over the last 15 or 20 years and I don’t think we can justify to everyone how well these horses are looked after, they don’t want to hear this and we don’t need to justify ourselves to how well they are looked after.
The amount of vets on course, not just at Aintree, but at every racecourse, there are huge numbers of vets there.
The people who care for these horses look after them like their own children.
It has been a big eye-opener for the industry as to what happened on Saturday and I have no doubt this will happen again. I suppose racecourse security, the Police, will have to be prepared.
It was great to see the Liverpudlians getting behind their race, they love this race, they were helping the police to stop these protestors. It was great to see that support coming from the local community as the race means an awful lot to the community of Liverpool.
Thoughts On No Honeysuckle At Punchestown?
I definitely think that Honeysuckle’s victory at the Cheltenham Festival was a perfect way to end a fabulous career.
It’s disappointing for the Punchestown Festival that she won’t be there but connections are doing the right thing for a mare who loved her racing.
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