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New minimum age for Grand National runners

Following the two deaths in the 2011 Grand National, the British Horseracing Authority has announced changes to the rules to improve safety.

Horses will now to be required to be at least seven years old, and to have finished at least fourth in a ling distance steeplechase.

The chief executive of World Horse Welfare, Roly Owers, said: "We welcome the recommendations in the report, which are good news for horse welfare. We are particularly pleased with the more stringent rules on eligibility to ensure that the horses and riders who compete in this challenging race are fit and experienced enough to do so. World Horse Welfare had requested this during the review.

"We also welcome their commitment to review their pre- and post-race procedures to improve the comfort and safety of the horses. There will always be risks to horse and rider in racing, particularly at the Grand National, but we hope these changes will help make the 2012 meeting the safest yet."

Tim Morris, the BHA's director of equine science and welfare, said: "We have learned some valuable lessons from the events of 2011, one of which is that we need to work harder and be more effective at communicating our positive, proactive welfare work.

"For example, the scenes of jockeys dismounting and water and oxygen being made available to horses post the Grand National were mistakenly interpreted as evidence of extreme fatigue on the part of the horses, when in fact the measures were designed to be pre-planned and preventative."

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