- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
HORSFALL RIDES AGAIN
The grand national, won this year by the Irish jumper, Quare Times, is the world's most grueling and most dangerous horse race. Since 1839 it has been generating intense excitement among devotees of racing around the world. But to a 63-year-old retired English schoolteacher named Georgina Horsfall, a lady preoccupied with falling horses, the Grand National is a national disgrace which Miss Horsfall does not propose to take sitting down.
Miss Horsfall is but one voice in a swelling chorus of angry protest that began after last year's Grand National, in which four horses were killed. Animal lovers had been denouncing the steeplechase for years, of course, but the unfortunate results of last year's race (in addition to the horses killed, 16 fell and only nine finished) gave the animal welfare crowd its strongest case in a long time. It was so strong, in fact, that the National Hunt Committee had to sit down-with the Home Secretary to discuss protests from several groups, including Miss Horsfall's own League Against Cruel Sports. The outcome was that the hunt committee agreed to modify at least one of the more dangerous jumps: the extremely hazardous Becher's Brook. The ground on the far side of the jump was raised and so was the brook's bottom. In addition, a runout from the brook was provided.
Even so, the improvements were just so much horse feathers to Miss Horsfall. She agreed to study the modifications but warned that if they struck her as inadequate she would give all concerned "a piece of my mind."
At her terraced home in Ilkley in the West Riding of Yorkshire, a haven for stray dogs and cats, Miss Horsfall smoothed down her cardigan and admitted she had never seen a steeplechase, indeed had never even ridden a horse. Miss Horsfall makes no apologies; she would as soon be caught in a hamburger stand (she is a devout vegetarian) as at a race track.
What particularly steams Miss Horsfall is the royal family's participation in the Grand National and other sporting affairs which, in the Horsfall view, are unfair to horses. "Disgraceful," is the Horsfall word for it.
This year's Grand National, run in atrocious weather that made it potentially the most dangerous in years, might be taken as a modest moral victory for Miss Horsfall and the thousands of like-minded animal lovers in England. The modified jump at Becher's took no horse lives (although there was a total of five falls there and at the thorn fence just beyond), and the water jump directly in front of the grandstand was eliminated by the racing officials as being entirely too hazardous for the day's foul weather.
But, for all of that, Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family were there. The Queen Mother's horse, M'As-Tu-Vu, fell turning into the homestretch and dropped out. This will not improve the royal family's case with the animal lovers one bit. As for the Grand National itself, a great deal more than one nonfatal running of it will be required to unseat Miss Horsfall.
SPURRIER AT SEA LEVEL