Soaring temperature sees Cheltenham horse race abandoned

A general view of the Cheltenham race course

A horse race over jumps at one of England's leading courses was called off on Thursday as large parts of Britain sweltered under unseasonably high temperatures.

With thermometers reaching 26 degrees Celsius (nearly 79 degrees Fahrenheit), officials at the southwest Cheltenham track decided the three-and-a-quarter mile JRL Group Mares Handicap Chase should be abandoned on welfare grounds.

Other races on Thursday's card at Cheltenham, albeit over shorter distances, went ahead as scheduled.

Grand National-winning trainer Donald McCain, who had been due to run Same Circus in the JRL Group Mares race, slammed the abandonment by saying: "I just think it's an appalling decision as I don't know how you can differentiate between distances," said McCain.

"If it's too hot to race, which I don't think it is by the way, then it's too hot and the whole meeting should be abandoned," added McCain, whose late father 'Ginger' trained the outstanding Red Rum to three Grand National wins in the 1970s.

Earlier, Dame Rose collapsed and died after finishing fourth in the mares' novices hurdle.

After the race, two other horses were reported to be suffering from heat stress.

The governing British Horseracing Authority (BHA), however, indicated the cause of Dame Rose's death was not yet known and a post-mortem would be carried out.

A report by Cheltenham stewards, quoted by the BBC, said the Mares Handicap Chase had been abandoned "as it potentially posed an unacceptable risk to horses over this extreme distance in the prevailing heat, especially as horses appear not to have acclimatised to the exceptionally warm weather following a prolonged cold spell".

British Horseracing Authority spokesman Robin Mounsey added: "Hot weather provisions have been put in place across the country, such as extra water and tired horses not returning to the parade ring after races, but the decision to cancel this one race was made as an extra precaution."