15 April 2007

Managing Director  Charles Barnett’s highly successful, incident-packed 15-year tenure at Aintree had drama until the end, with the last race of the day being cancelled owing to an injured horse being treated on the course.

Graphic Approach had fallen at Bechers Brook on the second circuit, but appeared disorientated as he galloped loose and crashed into the rails right by the crowd opposite the Chair Fence. While screens were raised, vets deliberated and water and saline treatment was given, the race after the Grand National, an amateur rider’s chase, was run at 5.45pm, 45 minutes after its scheduled ‘off time’.

During the delay many of the runners began to show signs of stress, a comment that could also be made for a fair few of the crowd.

In his first year, Barnett was confronted with the fiasco of the false start and the voided Grand National, and in 1997 he had to handle the IRA bomb scare abandonment and the Lord Gyllene Grand National that was run on the Monday. Yesterday’s decision, although tricky, did not feature on that scale.

“It was an extremely difficult situation,” Barnett said. “We would like apologise to race-goers and the owners and trainers involved, but I’m sure everyone will understand that the welfare of the horse who is being treated – and the horses taking part in the final race – must always be our priority.”

Graphic Approach, who made several unsuccessful attempts to get up, was finally anaesthetised and taken to nearby Leahurst Veterinary Hospital. Happily, Barnett, 57, was in better shape and now moves on to take up the challenge of picking up Ascot after last year’s controversy of the new grandstand. He will be well prepared.

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