Synchronized riden by Tony McCoy, centre, wearing green silks with yellow bands, falls after jumping Becher's Brook. Photo: SCOTT HEPPELL / AP

Synchronised and According to Pete killed in the Grand National

Synchronized riden by Tony McCoy, centre, wearing green silks with yellow bands, falls after jumping Becher's Brook. (Photo: AP/Scott Heppell)
Synchronized riden by Tony McCoy, centre, wearing green silks with yellow bands, falls after jumping Becher's Brook. (Photo: AP/Scott Heppell)

Last update 8:33 pm

The Daily Telegraph reports:

It is the second time in two years that two horses have died in the Grand National. The deaths will reignite the controversy surrounding the sport.

Millions of television viewers saw Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According to Pete fall at the sixth fence – Becher’s Brook.

It came after Jockey Tony McCoy had earlier been unseated by Synchronised, this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, in the moments leading up to the start of the race.

The incident packed 165th Grand National was one of the most dramatic in history. Only fifteen of the 40 runners who started the race managed to finish.


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Synchronised did not want to race today. The start was delayed when he unseated jockey Tony McCoy. Or was it the hijinks of an excited racehorse? Perhaps. Race organizers said Synchronised was “thoroughly checked” by a veterinarian before allowing him to line up in the 40-horse field.

When I hear reports like these, I always think of Barbaro breaking through the gates at Pimlico, and veterinarians allowed him to run anyway. After all, a Triple Crown was on the line (see video). The same with the horses who were killed in the re-running of the Dubai Gold Cup. They were “thoroughly checked” and allowed to race again.

Then there is the beautiful and tragic George Washington who had to be literally dragged out to race in the Breeders’ Cup in the slop at Monmouth. He did not want to race that day either. Gorgeous George died minutes later when he was put down; his leg shattered (see images).


:: Tragedy and insensitivity overshadow Grand National as two horses die >>

25 thoughts on “Synchronised and According to Pete killed in the Grand National”

  1. Sorry can’t agree the course definately need altering. Horses have always died in that race for decades!!!! These trained horses you are talking about have to be the equivalent of superman.
    That was a beautiful horse. I will never forget him because he has had a profound effect on me. He did not want to run and shouldn’t have. In my opinion this horse might as well have been murdered. I have not yet got rid of the feeling in the pit of my stomach. Anger, grief and disgust for the human beings who place personal gain over a beautiful animals life!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  2. It’s cruel synchronized didn’t want to race and they still put him through. It’s a shame these poor horses are dying they need to get rid of the grand national race as the fences are just too high for the horses.


  3. The GN is a cavalry charge involving luck of the draw as to who makes it home alive.
    4.5 miles over such gruelling fences is not sport it’s cruel.
    The amount of entrants needs to be drastically reduced to prevent bunching at the jumps and Beechers brook at least needs that landing side raised.
    Personally I would ban all steeplechasing immediately and put a stop to flat racing too.
    Seriously, where’s the sport in watching horse fall and snap their legs?


  4. Synchronised had to be put down because of a broken leg. if you watch the fall as the horse gets up the front left leg is clearly broken.


    1. Why do horses need to be put down because they break a leg? Do they not recover like other animals? Or is it a question of. The animal is no longer any use to the owner even though he deserves a good pension.


  5. I watched the race on TV … it’s necessary that every time some horse die into this race …why hedges are so high ?? Who really loves horses cannot accept this easily.


    1. The jumps are no doubt high, but they are covered with a lot of brush which makes them look even taller. That gives the horse a better chance of clearing it, and he can drag his legs through without hitting the top with his legs. A horse trained properly with the right build and skill can jump this course. I have seen it done by 100s of horses. I am not defending the deaths. There is a major problem that needs sorting, and it is not the course.


  6. I don t know what exactly happened, but since 1973, 33 horses died in the Grand National! The fences have been lowered, but as they were lower, the horses could run faster… and According to Pete and Synchronised didn t fall at the same place… Synchronised hurt himself all alone no driver on his back, following the other horses. It is so sad!


  7. What were the fatal injuries that caused death for the horses? Were they sustained after they made the jump? Is that fence known for injuries? Thanks for any information.


    1. Becher’s Brook is one of the larger fences and is jumped twice. The Chair is the biggest, but not as many fall there. The Canal turn is another where a lot of horses come to grief. Bear in mind too, with so many runners, if a horse falls the horses behind them have to ajdust in the air, or they can be “brought down”, land on other horses, or the jockeys. So a lot of the fallers are not necessarily because they were not able to jump the fence. It is usually the landing that is problem. I only know because I was a racing photographer in England, and covered the Grand National many times.

      Both of the horses reportedly broke a leg, and had to be put down.


  8. taking it is part of the risks of any high profile sport,injurys,deaths are inevatible.
    However the Grand National its revenue stream and the chance of glory to those involved now overides the welfare of the horse this race is to much of an ask to any horse.There has to be cut off point and significant changes to this race, remembering the horse has not got a voice.


    1. Agree, m dobson. There has to be a way to make is safer. But you are never going to eliminate injuries and fatalities from any type of competitive sport where live beings are used.


  9. Thanks for these photos of such a tragedy. 15 hrs later I still feel sickened by this needless loss of two horses for human “entertainment’. And very surprised really that Synchronised was in such a dangerous race; unnecessary for him to prove anything in a race such as this.
    I do not feel however that the sport as such is in danger but this particular race needs to be radically changed and made safe. It could remain as a marathon but with regular fences for instance. When only a handful of horses complete it, out of a high class filed, then something is definitely wrong and needs changing. ‘Mangled Horses and Maimed Jockeys’ from the NY Times of March 24th 2012 shows that things are even worse in the USA, on the Flat.


    1. I would not have risked a Gold Cup horse in the Grand National. It is such a rare feat. The owner wanted to make history by having a Gold Cup and Grand National winner in the same year. Horses are just not bred for that sort of stamina any longer. Plus Synchronised in my opinion was not mature enough to run in the Grand National, and the races are too close together (timewise).

      I do not believe the Grand National course needs altering at all. It has been that way for decades without loss of life. They started allowing people to put horses in the race who have no business being in the race — not talented or atheltic enough — and to me that is where the trouble began.

      A horse bred for it, in peak position, can jump this course, and some do it for fun, amazingly enough. The horses who fall, unseat their rider, and continue racing, are the ones who cause the most accidents and injuries.

      I have seen many more jockeys injured than horses. These horse fatalities are very alarming to me.


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