First equine death at 2019 Cheltenham Festival after Ballyward euthanised following fall in National Hunt Chase

First equine death at 2019 Cheltenham Festival after Ballyward euthanised following fall in National Hunt Chase

The Cheltenham Festival suffered its first equine death on Tuesday night after Ballyward was euthanised following a fall in the National Hunt Chase.

The Willie Mullins-trained favourite, ridden by Patrick Mullins, one of the most experienced amateurs at the Festival, was put down after a fall going into the final lap of a gruelling race that saw just four of the 18 starters finish.

It was also the first death since the racecourse introduced a host of new measures to improve equine safety.

A Cheltenham statement said: “As animal-lovers, we hate to lose any horse and of course we shall review this incident. Our thoughts are with Ballyward’s connections.”

Mullins had said of Ballyward before the race: “He has run only twice over racecourse fences and while he was a good winner of a Grade 3 three-miler at Naas, his lack of experience is a slight concern.”

Fatality rates in racing have fallen over the past 20 years because of safety improvements to 0.4 per cent in jump racing and closer to 0.1 per cent in flat racing. However, a safety review was launched at the festival after seven horses died last year, an increase on four deaths in 2017.

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