Aintree racegoers enjoy Ladies Day – but fighting breaks out

Well-dressed racegoers flocked to the Liverpool course for the second day of the Randox Grand National Festival on Friday, with celebrities including Olympian Sam Quek and former footballer Michael Owen among those enjoying the event.

But the day also saw the arrests of a group of men after reports of a fight and criticism from an animal rights group following the death of a horse.

Merseyside Police said four men had been arrested on suspicion of affray and two men were held on suspicion of assault after an altercation outside the Princess Royal Stand at 2.25pm.

Another man was detained on suspicion of a drug offence after being searched near the main entrance to the racecourse, while an eighth man was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

The force also said three drones had been seized after being flown in a restricted area.

The annual Style Awards this year included an award for the most sustainable outfit, won by 21-year-old Sallyann Morgan, from Liverpool, who wore an outfit which was handmade by her mother Michelle, 52, at a cost of £25.

The film director, wearing a white blouse and trousers made from breathable material, said: “My mum spent a day tops to make my outfit. She makes every outfit I go out in. I’m forever unique and sustainable – I love it.”

The first race of the day saw horse Giovinco fall at the final fence and suffer a fatal injury, while in the last race of the day Pikar suffered a heavy fall and organisers confirmed the injuries were fatal.

An Aintree spokesperson said: “Pikar was immediately attended by expert veterinary professionals during the seventh race of the day, but sadly passed away following a fall at the second last hurdle.

“Our heartfelt condolences are with his connections.”

But Ben Newman, from Animal Rising – a group which protested at last year’s Grand National, said: “This latest death shows the industry’s so-called ‘welfare’ changes are nothing but a cynical PR stunt.

“The horses are raced to the extreme limits of what they are capable of, time and time again. No wonder we have witnessed yet another tragic death on the track. These horses will not be safe until all racing stops.”

Last year, the Grand National was delayed by about 15 minutes after activists gained access to the track, leading to more than 100 arrests.

Animal Rising activists outside the gates last year (Peter Byrne/PA)

Changes have been made to the world-famous steeplechase, which will be held at the racecourse on Saturday.

They include reduced field of 34 horses, down from 40, as well as a standing start, a reduction in height to one of the fences and added foam and rubber toe boards on every fence. 

A spokesman for Aintree Racecourse said: “We conduct an evidence-based review process after every Grand National which looks at all aspects of the race.

“The changes that we announced last year are data driven and the result of a detailed assessment of recent Grand Nationals and the analysis of trends and statistics relating to the race over many years.”

The Jockey Club, which runs the racecourse, has previously said the changes are not a consequence of the protests.

Animal Rising has said it has no plans to disrupt this year’s race, saying it does “not need to be there to affect change”.

Merseyside Police has warned it will deal “robustly” with any incidences of “anti-social behaviour, hate crime, disorder and other criminal activity” at the racecourse and punters have been subject to security checks, including bag searches.

About 80,000 people are expected to attend the racecourse on Saturday.

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