Becher's Brook

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Becher's Brook before the modifications were made to the fence Becher's Brook.jpg
Becher's Brook before the modifications were made to the fence

Becher's Brook ( /ˈbərz/ BEECH-ərz) [1] is a fence jumped during the Grand National, a National Hunt horse race held annually at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England. It is jumped twice during the race, as the sixth and 22nd fence, as well as on four other occasions during the year. It has always been a notorious and controversial obstacle, because of the size and angle of the 6 ft 9in drop on the landing side. [2] Some jockeys have compared it to "jumping off the edge of the world." [3]

Grand National English horse race held at Aintree every year

The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race held annually at Aintree Racecourse, near Liverpool, England. First run in 1839, it is a handicap steeplechase over an official distance of about 4 miles and 2½ furlongs,, with horses jumping 30 fences over two laps. It is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of £1 million in 2017. An event that is prominent in British culture, the race is popular amongst many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year.

Horse racing Equestrian sport

Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, typically involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys over a set distance for competition. It is one of the most ancient of all sports, as its basic premise – to identify which of two or more horses is the fastest over a set course or distance – has been unchanged since at least classical antiquity.

Contents

After the deaths of Dark Ivy in the 1987 Grand National and Seeandem and Brown Trix in the 1989 Grand National, all at Becher's Brook, Aintree bowed to pressure from animal rights groups and undertook extensive modifications to the fence. Further changes were made after two horses, Ornais and Dooneys Gate, died during the 2011 Grand National, the latter at Becher's. The incident involving Dooneys Gate resulted in the fence being jumped only once for the first time in the race's history; it was bypassed on the outside on the second circuit while veterinary staff attended to him. [4]

The 1987 Grand National was the 141st running of the Grand National horse race that took place at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England, on 4 April 1987.

The 1989 Grand National was the 143rd renewal of the Grand National horse race that took place at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England, on 8 April 1989.

Animal rights Belief that non-human animals have basic interests that should be afforded similar consideration as those of humans

Animal rights is the idea in which some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own existence and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid suffering—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings.

History

The fence took its name from Captain Martin Becher, who fell there from his mount, Conrad, in the first official Grand National in 1839, and took shelter in the brook to avoid injury. The jump originally consisted of an 8 ft-wide brook with a fence set back a yard in front of the water, the ground on the landing side 3 ft lower than the take-off side. [5]

Martin William Becher was a former soldier and steeplechase jockey in whose memory the Becher's Brook obstacle at Aintree Racecourse is named.

1839 Grand National inaugural horse race held in 1839

The 1839 Grand Liverpool Steeplechase was the first official annual running of a steeplechase which later became known as the Grand National.

Modifications

Slight amendments were made to the landing side of Becher's Brook in 1954 after recommendations were made to the National Hunt Committee, but the most significant modifications took place following the 1987 and 1989 Grand Nationals.

In 1987, Dark Ivy, a grey horse, fell at the fence and landed perpendicular, incurring a cervical fracture which killed him instantly. In 1989, six horses fell at Becher's on the first circuit. Seeandem, ridden by Liam Cusack, broke his back and had to be euthanised, while Brown Trix, ridden by amateur jockey David Pitcher, fractured a shoulder and then rolled down into the water-filled brook where he almost drowned. He was later euthanised. By the time the remaining runners reached Becher's Brook on the second circuit, course officials had been unable to remove the bodies in time. Audiences were given a clear view of Brown Trix's body at one end of the fence and a green tarpaulin covering Seeandem's body at the other end of the fence. Following an outcry, Aintree made several changes to the fence:

Cervical fracture catastrophic fracture of any of the seven cervical vertebrae in the neck

A cervical fracture, commonly called a broken neck, is a catastrophic fracture of any of the seven cervical vertebrae in the neck. Examples of common causes in humans are traffic collisions and diving into shallow water. Abnormal movement of neck bones or pieces of bone can cause a spinal cord injury resulting in loss of sensation, paralysis, or usually instant death.

Animal euthanasia is the act of putting an animal to death or allowing it to die by withholding extreme medical measures. Reasons for euthanasia include incurable conditions or diseases, lack of resources to continue supporting the animal, or laboratory test procedures. Euthanasia methods are designed to cause minimal pain and distress. Euthanasia is distinct from animal slaughter and pest control although in some cases the procedure is the same.

After an eight-horse pile up on the first circuit of the 2004 Grand National where some horses rolled back towards the mostly filled-in brook, the brook was completely rebuilt in 2005. It was built deeper and included running water for the first time since 1989 [6] but was covered over with rubber matting in an effort to make the jump less hazardous for horses that had fallen.

2004 Grand National horse race held in 2004

The 2004 Grand National was the 157th official annual running of the world-famous Grand National steeplechase which took place at Aintree near Liverpool, England, on 3 April 2004 and attracted the maximum permitted field of 40 competitors for total prize money of £600,000 including £348,000 to the winner.

In 2009, the Grand National course was widened so there is enough room for runners to bypass fences if required, including Becher's Brook. The new bypass lane at Becher's was used for the first time during the 2011 Grand National as marshals waved flags and diverted the remaining contenders around the fence on the second circuit while veterinary staff attended to a fatally injured horse, Dooneys Gate, who had broken his back. [7]

On 15 August 2011, Aintree announced new modifications to Becher's Brook following a review of the course in the aftermath of the 2011 National. [8] Amongst the changes to the course, the landing side of Becher's was re-profiled to reduce the current drop by between 4 and 5 inches across the width of the fence. The drop is now approximately 10 inches on the inside of the course and 6 inches on the outside of the course. This difference in drop from the inside to the outside of the fence has been retained to encourage riders to spread out across the width of the fence and also to retain the unique characteristics of the fence. The height of the fence remains unaltered at 4 ft 10 inches. [9]

Number of fallers

The following table shows the number of fallers at Becher's Brook during the main Grand National race (excluding the other races held on the course during the three-day meeting), including those who unseated their riders or were brought down, but not including those that pulled up, were carried out, or refused at the fence.

YearFallsEquine fatalities
1960 6
1961 3
1962 0
1963 1
1964 1
1965 6
1966 6
1967 1
1968 4
1969 3
1970 2
1971 5
1972 6
1973 2
1974 0
1975 41
1976 7
1977 71
1978 4
1979 51
1980 5
1981 2
1982 6
1983 5
1984 5
1985 4
1986 1
1987 21 [10]
1988 4
1989 62 [11]
1990 2
1991 1
1992 3
1993 (void)0
1994 3
1995 0
1996 0
1997 2
1998 2
1999 71
2000 3
2001 3
2002 2
2003 3
2004 9
2005 2
2006 2
2007 5
2008 2
2009 3
2010 2
2011*41
2012 31
2013 0
2014 2
2015 1
2016 2
2017 3
2018*3

*Jumped only on first circuit.

See also

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References

  1. Miller, G.M. Miller. BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names. Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 12.
  2. Berry, Emma. "The Grand National — how to ride Becher's Brook" Archived 10 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine , Horse and Hound, 7 April 2011.
  3. "London calling", BBC, 1981.
  4. "Grand National 2011: emotions run high at Aintree, but thrilling race is marred by death of two horses", The Sunday Telegraph, 10 April 2011.
  5. Vamplew, Wray and Kay, Joyce. Encyclopedia of British horseracing, Routledge, 2005, p. 44.
  6. "icLiverpool – Becher's gets its brook back". Icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk. 31 March 2005. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  7. Greg Wood at Aintree (9 April 2011). "Two horses die as gruelling Grand National takes its toll at Aintree | Sport | The Observer". Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  8. "BBC Sport – Grand National course to be altered on safety concerns". BBC News. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  9. "Changes to the Grand National course to enhance safety". Aintree.co.uk. 3 December 2011. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  10. "'A mistake at Becher's proved fatal. Dark Ivy came down perpendicular and broke his neck' " Sporting Intelligence". Sportingintelligence.com. 9 April 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  11. Vamplew, p. 147.