Cheltenham Festival: Copper Gone West becomes first horse to die at 2020 event

Copper Gone West has become the first horse to die at the Cheltenham Festival, casting a shadow over the third day of racing.

The seven-year-old mare trained by Tim Vaughan was ridden by Alan Johns in the 2:10pm Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, but was pulled up shortly before the end of the race.

However, it was confirmed by Cheltenham officials that Copper Gone West had to be put down after suffering a fatal injury during the race.

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“Devastated to have lost Copper Gone West at Cheltenham today,” said Vaughan via his Twitter account. “A wonderful horse, she will be greatly missed by all of us at Pant Wilkin and by her adoring owners Paul and Louise.

The race was eventually won by Sire Du Berlais, who clinched back-to-back wins in the Pertemps following a tight battle with stablemate The Storyteller, though the victory was soured by the tragic news.

The first two days of racing passed without any fatalities at Cheltenham, though the death of Copper Gone West renewed calls for action to be taken against the British Horseracing Authority over the wellfare of race horses.

Animal rights group Animal Aid said in a statement: “Despite the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) review of Cheltenham in 2018 – due to an appalling record of deaths – their recommendations have failed horses yet again at the Prestbury Park course. 

“The excessive number of 24 runners in the race was clearly the cause of Copper Gone West’s death. On the final turn she took a heavy bump to her shoulder from another horse which resulted in a fatal injury. She was destroyed on the Cheltenham course just minutes later. 

“Whilst Animal Aid does not support horse racing, a positive step for race horses’ safety would be to replace the BHA with an independent horse welfare body.”

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