Activists hope to chase away Wellington Steeplechase fans

Racing officials have denied horses are dying thanks to injuries sustained in steeplechase events.

Punters attending the Wellington Steeplechase on Saturday will be confronted by protesters who want jumps racing to be banned. 

Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses spokesperson Frances Baker says last year four horses were killed as a result of breaking bones while forced to jump at high speeds.

And this season isn't looking any better.

"Recently we've seen two deaths as a result of jumps racing," she told Newshub. "We're only two months into the jumps racing season, and they've died from heart attacks and fractures."

But Wellington Racing Club head Alasdair Robertson told Newshub that's not true.

"We've had absolutely none at all. It's simply not correct. They're here every week, and they've made these numbers up. I don't know where they've come from."

He said while none have died in Wellington events, he couldn't be sure about the rest of the country.

Baker says people should think twice about attending this weekend's event, being held Saturday at Wellington Racing Club in Trentham. The club advertises Wellington Steeplechase Day as "the ultimate winter raceday", and encourages punters to show up in "trilbys, tweeds and tartans".

Baker says jumps racing is inherently cruel.

"They're playing a game of Russian roulette - a game you cannot win. Every aspect of their life revolves around making money, and as a result their welfare is compromised."

But Robertson said activists have no idea of the reality of racing.

"The name steeplechase comes from the English tradition of racing from church to church - cross-country. It's a sport that's as old as Western civilisation. These animals are much-loved - they are fit, well-cared for."

He said horses involved in the races are much better off than those living in the wild.

But activists will gather at the entrance of Wellington Race Club as punters head in regardless, trying to convince them to turn around.

"We'll be holding placards and banners with confronting images of the cruel reality behind horse racing, calling on racegoers to reconsider supporting this so-called 'sport'." 



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