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Two horses die on first day of Cheltenham Festival

Two horses have died on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The first fatality occurred during the third race, when 11-year-old Highland Hunter died after being injured while falling in the final stages.

Later during the sixth race, four-year-old Ose Partir died. The animal was one of two brought down by another horse, Karia Des Blaises, when it fell at the fourth hurdle.

A spokesperson for Cheltenham Racecourse said: “Highland Hunter was immediately attended by expert veterinary professionals in the concluding stages of our third race but sadly passed away.

“In the sixth race, Ose Partir sustained an injury and was humanely put to sleep. Our heartfelt condolences are with the connections of both horses.”

Iain Green, director of Animal Aid, said on X: “The racing authorities should be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act for failing in their duty of care and for causing unnecessary suffering.”

The RSPCA also wrote on social media: “Heartbreaking to see both Highland Hunter and Ose Partir lose their life today at Cheltenham.

“The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) must thoroughly investigate the circumstances and whether anything can be done to prevent fatalities in future.”

Horseracing authorities say the industry has a “clear and moral responsibility and deep ethic of care for the welfare of the racehorse, a responsibility we take extremely seriously”.

The BHA, Jockey Club and Great British Racing say that while there is an “element of risk” involved in the sport, they have invested more than £47m over the last two decades to minimise the risk of harm to horses and to ensure they have a “good quality of life”.

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