West News Wire: Animal rights activists scaled the gates surrounding the Aintree racecourse’s perimeter and entered the racetrack, delaying one of the most prestigious horse races in the world, the Grand National.
Merseyside Police reported that 118 persons were detained on Saturday on suspicion of causing criminal damage and public annoyance in an effort to obstruct the race.
Several minutes prior to the start of the race, a sizable contingent of 300 activists scaled the high gates around the racecourse and entered the track. According to the Animal Rising organization, some attached themselves to the race fences using adhesive and lock-on devices before being removed by police and security personnel.
Police and security officials were seen stopping other activists and shaking the perimeter fences to prevent others mounting them.
The race was delayed as a result and the 39 horses were kept in the parade ring. It was originally scheduled to begin at 5:15pm local time (16:15 GMT).
The race started around 15 minutes late after the jockeys returned to the paddock, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.
Corach Rambler, ridden by Derek Fox, stormed to victory. The 8-1 shot burst clear off the last fence and won comfortably from 20-1 chance Vanillier, with Gaillard Du Mesnil in third place.
Earlier on Saturday, a 25-year-old woman and a man were arrested earlier protesting outside Aintree racecourse near Liverpool, northwest England where the famous steeplechase takes place.
A 33-year-old woman was also arrested in the Greater Manchester area “in connection with potential coordinated disruption activities” at Aintree, police said. Their names were not disclosed.
Animal Rising had called on protesters to gather outside the racecourse to demand an end to “animal cruelty for entertainment”. The group tweeted a video that it said shows one of its spokespeople being arrested at the protest.
Police said they have been working with race organisers ahead of and during the Grand National Festival, which started on Thursday.
The Grand National, among the biggest occasions on the British sporting calendar, is regarded as one of the most dangerous horse races in the world because of the size of the fences.
Changes were made in 2012 to make the course safer, including softening some of the fences, after two horses died in the Grand National that year and in 2011.
There have been four fatalities from 356 runners in the nine Grand Nationals since.
Four horses died at the Aintree festival last year, including two who were injured in the Grand National.