The killjoys are coming for the Grand National

Horse racing is a wonderful sport enjoyed by millions. Time to stand up for it.

Jon Bryan

Topics Sport

It’s the same every year. In the days leading up to the Grand National – one of the best-known and most anticipated sporting events of the year – we have to listen to righteous killjoys calling for the abolition of horse racing.

This year has been no different. Ahead of the 176th Grand National this weekend, someone called Ben Newman, from campaign group Animal Rising, appeared on Sky News on Monday to call for an end to horse racing. He said we should ‘re-wild’ the thousands of thoroughbred horses we have in the UK.

For those genuinely concerned about animal welfare, releasing race horses out into the wild doesn’t seem like a great idea. They would surely fare far better as it stands – being cared for and looked after in stables – than they would if left to roam the countryside.

But those who spend their time railing against the Grand National aren’t really concerned about the horses. They just seem to have a problem with people enjoying themselves at the races.

Horse racing is the second-biggest spectator sport in the UK. Around five million turn out at racecourses every year, and many more watch it on TV. It’s the very popularity of horse racing that seems to annoy the likes of Animal Rising.

It’s also no coincidence that horse-racing abolitionists are also invariably anti-gambling. This puts them at odds with nearly half of the adult population, who regularly enjoy a bet – not to mention the millions more who like a one-off flutter on the Grand National each year.

Too often, the misery-guts campaigners are able to attack horse racing and gambling virtually unchallenged. Too few are willing to stand up for a pastime enjoyed by millions. But a fightback is underway. Formed 12 months ago, Stand Up For Racing has done an excellent job of opposing the animal-rights campaigners. Pundits such as Lydia Hislop and Kevin Blake have also mounted sterling defences of horse racing in recent years.

Moreover, at the start of this month, the British Horseracing Authority, Great British Racing and the Horse Welfare Board came together to launch Horse Pwr, a campaign to ‘provide facts, educate and confront the tough questions [about the sport] head-on’. This is a very welcome initiative, given the media’s uncritical engagement with the anti-racing and anti-gambling lobby.

Horse racing really is a wonderful sport, and the Grand National is spectacular. The joy and splendour of this annual occasion should be celebrated. Which is what I’ll be doing this weekend, while watching it with my family. And if Corach Rambler comes home first, I’ll enjoy it that little bit more!

Jon Bryan is a gambling writer who tweets at @JonBryanPoker. He can also be found on Substack. His pamphlet, Risking it All: The Freedom to Gamble, published by the Academy of Ideas, can be bought or downloaded here.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Sport


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