BRITAIN'S Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has condemned the running of the Grand National steeplechase after two horses were killed in the race, the same number as last year.
Synchronised, the winner of last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup, and According to Pete had to be put down after they both broke a leg at the Bechers Brook jump.
The RSPCA called for more safeguards to protect racehorses. After the deaths of five horses at Cheltenham, the animal charity had six inspectors at the Grand National venue, Aintree.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: "The death of two horses in the Grand National is totally unacceptable. In its current format, the risks to horses are not appropriate and we want an urgent examination of the race, including a number of fences including Bechers Brook, where horses are continuing to die."
Synchronised was spooked by a tape at the starting line and threw rider Tony McCoy. It took six minutes to recapture the horse and return it to the starting line. Synchronised then landed badly at Bechers Brook, breaking a leg, and had to be put down.
"There's risk in any sport. The highs and lows of this sport are unbelievable."
A photo finish and a nostril margin gave the win to Neptune Collonges, an 11-year-old grey, giving its trainer his first Grand National victory at the 53rd try.
Nicholls said the horse would now be retired. "He will have a wonderful home now for life," the trainer said.
Female jockey Katie Walsh, riding Seabass, the joint favourite, had millions of women watching at home on the edge of their seats as she came close to stealing victory and still finished third - the first time a woman has done so - behind Sunnyhillboy in second.
The happiest people at Aintree were the bookmakers. On a day worth pound stg. 300 million ($458m) to the British betting industry, the race was won by an unfancied horse at odds of 33-1.
David Williams of Ladbrokes said: "The result could scarcely have been any better. Neptune Collonges slipped off most radars, and most of the cheers at Aintree came from the bookies."