The Cheltenham Festival
13-16 March

The Cheltenham Festival, which is held every March, is an event at which the racing industry parades in all its finery and receives uncritical, flattering coverage from sections of the media.

In reality, it is a graveyard for horses. The high death toll and overuse of the whip make Cheltenham an event that, for many, embodies all that is unsavoury about commercial racing.

Reasons to boycott the Cheltenham Festival

Horses killed

Cheltenham holds the record for horses killed in a single day’s racing – with six fatalities on 16 March 2006. Five more died as a result of racing in that same year’s Festival – making a total of 11 dead.

In 2016, seven horses were killed during the Festival, making the it the most lethal since 2006.

The killing continues

The 2006 carnage prompted Animal Aid to launch Race Horse Deathwatch in March 2007. Since then, we have recorded the deaths of 78 horses at the Gloucestershire course, 33 at the Festival itself.

League of shame

Cheltenham has been at or near the top of the league of Britain’s most lethal courses for at least 15 years.


Despite its appalling record, neither the course operators nor the British Horseracing Authority seem able or willing to address the situation credibly. Sign our petition

No answer

Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Consultant produced a detailed analysis in 2015 of the troubled Gloucestershire course. Called straightforwardly Why more horses die at Cheltenham than at any other British racecourse , it was sent to the British Horseracing Authority, the National Trainers Federation, the Professional Jockeys Association, the Racehorse Owners Association, the Jockey Club and Cheltenham Racecourse. Not one of them bothered even responding.

Reasons why

Key reasons for the high death toll identified in our 2015 report include: crowded races, long distances to run, novice horses used in demanding events, stiff fences and challenging racing ground.

Win at all costs

Another major factor contributing to the high death toll is the win-at-all-costs attitude of jockeys, owners and trainers. This arises from the big money prizes, the prestige and self congratulation associated with the event.

Thrashed with the whip

This ‘Cheltenham effect’ also leads to horses being thrashed with the whip more often than at run-of-the-mill events. Read more.

Horse Racing Reports

Download our reports on the use of the whip and the reasons for Cheltenham’s high death rate

Abuse and Lose Cheltenham Deaths

Read Cheltenham Festival and Cheltenham Racecourse – in figures

Protest against the Cheltenham Festival

Order leaflets now

Please sign our petition calling for urgent action to stop horses dying in races

Animal Aid has launched an e-petition urging the government to set up an independent regulatory body, with horse welfare as its only interest, which will take meaningful action to stop horses dying. Please sign it now.

Contact Animal Aid

Animal Aid

Animal Aid, The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tonbridge, Kent, TN9 1AW +44 (0)1732 364546