Grand National: Twenty-three arrested over protests that delayed start of race


Twenty-three people have been arrested over disruption to the Grand National that saw animal rights activists delay the start of the race by getting on to the course at Aintree.

Merseyside Police said they arrested nine people who had managed to enter the track on Saturday.

They later confirmed 23 arrests have been made “in connection with disruption activities”.

They added officers are “making further arrests” as the operation continues.

The race started 14 minutes late after its scheduled start time of 17:15.

The 175th edition was won by Corach Rambler, ridden by Derek Fox.

Merseyside Police said “a large number of protesters attempted to gain entry” to the course just after 17:00 BST.

While the “majority” were stopped, nine managed to enter the track and were later arrested by officers, a statement added.

Television pictures appeared to show some protesters making it on to the track and trying to attach themselves to a fence, before being removed by police.

Others attempted to climb over or glue themselves to security fencing around the track but were led away, with police also confiscating ladders.

Climate and animal rights group Animal Rising,external-link who earlier demonstrated outside Aintree, claimed on social media their supporters entered the track to delay the race.

There have been three horse deaths at the 2023 meeting, including Hill Sixteen, who died after falling at the first fence in the Grand National.

There have now been five fatalities from 395 runners in the 10 Grand Nationals raced since safety changes were introduced in 2012.

Traffic was also blocked by protesters on the M57 motorway shortly before activists entered the track at Aintree.

North West Motorway Police said “a number of people sat on the M57” at junction two northbound, and traffic was stopped in both directions.

The southbound carriageway reopened just before 18:00, while northbound traffic is being diverted via a slip road, with delays of more than an hour in the area.

A horse running the Grand National passes by a section of fencing, behind which police are leading away protesters

After a delay was announced on the racecourse public address system, the 39 participating horses were taken back to the pre-parade ring.

The jockeys were asked to re-mount their rides six minutes after the scheduled start time, with the race starting eight minutes later.

“We can confirm that nine people have been arrested at Aintree Racecourse today – [Saturday, 15 April],” Merseyside Police said.

“Just after 5pm a large number of protesters attempted to gain entry on to the course.

“The majority were prevented from breaching the boundary fencing but the nine individuals who managed to enter the course were later arrested by officers.”

Protestors hold placards outside Aintree on Saturday morning

Three people were earlier arrested in connection with potential co-ordinated disruption activities.

A 25-year-old woman from London and a man were arrested outside Aintree on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance.

A 33-year-old woman from the London area was arrested in Greater Manchester on suspicion of the same offence.

Animal Rising claimed one of those arrested earlier on Saturday was one of its members, 25-year-old Claudia Penna Rojas.

Merseyside Police said they had planned for the possibility of protests.

About 30 animal rights protesters had gathered outside the racecourse on Saturday morning.

The police had previously said they would deal “robustly” with any disruption after animal rights activists threatened to sabotage the race.

Before the race, a spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with The Jockey Club and other partners to keep people safe during the Grand National Festival.

“We are aware of some people planning to protest at the event. This has been factored into our plans.

“We respect the right to peaceful protest and expression of views, but criminal behaviour and disorder will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.”

Police confiscate ladders from protesters attempting to climb over security fencing to access the Grand National racecourse at Aintree

Aintree Racecourse warned that the actions of protestors could “endanger the horses they purport to protect, as well as jockeys, officials and themselves”.

Speaking before protesters entered the track, Animal Rising spokesperson Nathan McGovern said: “Police are wasting time chasing protesters rather than addressing the climate and ecological emergency, and our broken relationship to animals.

“We remain undeterred, and we will peacefully continue our actions to stop harm coming to animals at Aintree.

“Today marks the first of many actions that will really take place this summer to push this conversation to the top of the agenda.”

Animal Rising posted photos on social media appearing to show supporters slow-marching around Aintree on Saturday afternoon.

As well as Hill Sixteen, Dark Raven was put down earlier on Saturday following a fall during the Turners Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, while Envoye Special suffered a fatal injury in the Foxhunters’ Chase on Thursday.

The Jockey Club said: “While racing in the third race, Dark Raven was immediately attended by our expert veterinary professionals.

“After assessment, sadly they concluded the necessary course of action for the horse’s welfare was to put him to sleep. Our sincere sympathies are with his connections.”

Bookmakers expect more than £150m to be wagered on the National, which takes place over 30 fences and four and a quarter miles.

A heavy police presence was seen outside Aintree on Saturday

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