A CAMPAIGN group has accused Worcester Racecourse safety bosses of being “inept” after seven horses died during races in the last 12 months at the site – six more than over the previous year.

However, the racecourse has defended its safety record.

Six-year-old colt De Good Man Luke was ‘destroyed’ on July 3 at the Grand Stand Road course – the seventh to perish there since July 2018 – with Animal Aid labelling it a “deadly racecourse”.

The horse reportedly pulled up injured after jumping a hurdle in the 5.20pm Pershore Plum Festival Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, and the campaign group has once again called for fixed brush hurdles to be banned.

This type of hurdle, used at several courses but exclusively at Worcester and Southwell, offers far less give than more traditional alternatives, resulting in more chance of leg injuries, claims Animal Aid.

Dene Stansall, horse racing consultant for the group, said he and his colleagues have grave concerns over the “number of horses who are killed as a consequence of trying to jump what we consider dangerous and antiquated obstacles”.

He called the deaths of these seven young horses at Worcester “totally unacceptable” and said the sooner the hurdles are removed "the safer, we believe, it will be for horses”.

However, Mr Stansall said the hurdles are “only part of the problem at Worcester”.

“Summer jump racing at the course poses problems of heat stress and fast ground, both factors that can lead to fatalities,” he continued.

“With four race meetings over the next five weeks, Animal Aid has serious concerns for the safety of the horses who will be forced to run and jump on this deadly racecourse.”

He went on to say, in relation to the significant rise in deaths over the last year, Animal Aid has consulted British Horseracing Authority (BHA)’s newly-created Horse Welfare Board as it believes Worcester racecourse “appears inept in dealing with this problem”.

According to figures on the group’s Race Horse Death Watch website, the city’s course saw no deaths between that of Lady Lunchalot on July 18, 2017 to Port Royale on July 17, 2018.

The latter horse collapsed suddenly after a National Hunt Novice Hurdle, according to trainer Anthony Honeyball – speaking to Worcester News last summer – who described it as a “freak internal bleed on the lung”.

The six-year-old mare’s death was followed swiftly by King Spirit nine days later on July 26 who was destroyed after injuring a tendon.

Ocean Jive was shot after a race on August 22 due to a foreleg injury, Sunday in the Park on September 11 after falling, Eclat Des Bieffes on October 11 after breaking its near hindleg and Baden on October 24 due to an unspecified hindleg injury.

De Good Man Luke, owned by Nick Murphy and trained by Jake Thomas Coulson, was being ridden by jockey Callum McKinnes on ground described as good to firm in places, across a 2m 4f distance.

The horse had previously raced on May 27 at Cartmel and before that on May 4 at Uttoxeter.

A spokesman for Worcester Racecourse said the “safety, both human and equine, is of absolute and paramount importance” at the city site “as it is across British racing”.

“Whilst risk might never be eliminated in our sport, every fixture at Worcester meets the stringent safety and welfare criteria as set out by BHA.

“This includes our dedicated veterinary facilities along with a team of independent vets, racecourse and stable inspectors and our own team who all work alongside the dedicated and hardworking members of racing staff who look after racehorses, day in, day out.”

A spokesman for BHA refuted Animal Aid's claims about summer racing, saying "no raceday fatalities have occurred as a result of heat stress in the UK".

He went on to say BHA “works constantly” with racecourses to “ensure the continual improvement of welfare standards”.

It also monitors injury rates to “identify where any trends emerge and improvements can be made, based on solid evidence”, he continued.

“As a consequence of British racing’s investment in safety, welfare and health, the number of horses that have suffered fatal injuries in jump races has decreased by one third in the last 20 years, and stands at around 0.4 per cent of runners,” he continued.

“Faller rates during jump races have decreased to an all-time low of just 2.53 per cent, a reduction of 30 per cent in the last 20 years as a result of initiatives to make racecourses and jump racing safer.”

The spokesman added that the newly-created Horse Welfare Board “has the remit to develop a new welfare strategy covering the whole racing industry”.

“The strategy will look across the whole lifetime of racehorses, before, during and after they leave the sport".

He said the welfare board has received no formal representation from Animal Aid regarding Worcester racecourse, and neither has the BHA.