Jimmy Fyffe, owner of Hill Sixteen, has defended the sport of horse racing and its record on horse welfare, despite the tragic loss of his star horse at Aintree on Saturday in the Randox Grand National. Hill Sixteen, a ten-year-old horse trained by Sandy Thomson, fell for the first time in his 27-race career at the first fence in the National, which had been delayed by animal rights protesters.
Fyffe, who co-owned Hill Sixteen with Scott Townshend, expressed his support for the care that racehorses receive and stated that his horse’s death would not deter him from the sport. He emphasized that horses in racing are well looked after by trainers and compared the risks to those that horses face in a field.
“You can lose a horse in the field who is running about,” Fyffe said. “The horses get looked after so well by all of the trainers. I’ve been in all the stables where I’ve got horses and they’re looked after like kings, they really are. Sadly it [losing a horse] happened for me and Scott, but I love the game and invest a lot of money in it. The horses have a great life and love running, so I’ve got no qualms with staying in this game.”
Thomson, the trainer of Hill Sixteen, blamed the incident on the delayed start of the race due to animal rights protesters who had entered the course and attempted to secure themselves to fences and railings. He believed that the prolonged wait caused Hill Sixteen to become “hyper” and that it may have played a part in the fatal injury.
Fyffe agreed with Thomson’s assessment, stating, “It didn’t help with the horses walking about for a lengthy amount of time and then going back to the stables and coming back again. That wasn’t good for the horses. I was absolutely gutted to lose Hill Sixteen, especially for the stable staff, Sandy and all his team. It was heartbreaking.”
Hill Sixteen’s loss was not the only setback Fyffe and Townshend experienced at Aintree. On Friday, their horse Cooper’s Cross, trained by Stuart Coltherd, fell four fences from the finish in the Topham, after being hampered while traveling well.
Fyffe, who is also a director and sponsor of the Scottish Premiership football team Dundee United, had a mixed experience at Aintree, as less than an hour after his National heartbreak, he won the concluding Grade 2 bumper with the Nicky Richards-trained horse Florida Dreams. Fyffe expressed his excitement and happiness about the win, stating, “He’s very exciting, and it was good getting a win on home soil first [at Musselburgh], and then we wanted to keep him for this race. I love Aintree, sadly I lost a horse in the National, which is the ups and downs of the sport. I love getting a lot of my horses here, so to win was brilliant.”
Despite the tragic loss of Hill Sixteen, Fyffe’s resolve to continue his involvement in horse racing remains strong. He is appreciative of the care that racehorses receive from trainers and believes that the horses lead a good life and enjoy running. While acknowledging the risks involved, he remains committed to the sport and looks forward to future successes with his horses.