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Looks Deceiving At Aintree In UK

Tuesday, 5th March 2013

UK website guardian.co.uk was given a sneak preview of next month's Aintree Grand National's new fences in construction, with clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch explaining that the plastic birch will be topped with 14 to 16 inches of the familiar spruce, so that each obstacle will be as big and will look exactly the same as last year. In what is the most dramatic break with tradition in the history of the famous race, first staged in the 1830s, the wooden portions of the fences are being replaced with more flexible plastic. The aim is to reduce the risk of injury to horses and jockeys, following four equine deaths in the past two Nationals. The heights will be maintained to prevent horses from going faster, as this results in harder falls and counteracts any gain from using a more flexible fence. Tulloch said, "I think, like everything, things move on, new materials have become available. The essence of the race is the same." Tulloch says the course has spent more than £1m over five years on various measures aimed at improving safety for the race's participants. "We're always looking to improve it and not stand still. From my perspective, the welfare of horse and rider is the single most important thing. For the last five or six years, we at Aintree have been keen to look at an alternative. The problem was finding something that would work and give us longevity. The plastic will hopefully last a few years and, with the open ditches, we'll see. If this works, we'll stay this way."

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