The most famous horse race in the racing calendar, the Grand National has come under serious threat this morning, after horses due to take part in the race demanded that Risk Assessments on the course's fences be undertaken.
The National, as it is known among racegoers, is run over a 4-miles and 4-furlongs course at Aintree on Merseyside, with horses and jockeys having to negotiate thirty fences, known, amongst those same racegoers, as deathtraps.
Easily the most dangerous fence is Bechers Brook, where many a nag comes unstuck. Also infamous are The Chair, Neddy's Graveyard, The Drowning Pool, and The Gallows. Sixteen stricken horses met their grisly end here in last year's race alone.
Since 2003, 86 horses have come to grief at Becher's Brook, with 71 of those having to be 'put to sleep' with a shotgun. Hundreds more have pulled up lame, and there are 18 jockeys still missing after an incident at the water jump in 2004.
Officials at the course say that they have 'significantly improved' the safety standards at the course for this year's event.
Now though, horses have said that they will not race unless a Health & Safety audit is held to determine just how safe the jumps are, and many have demanded that the steel spears be removed from Bechers Brook.
Slim Pickings, the horse that finished third last year, neighed:
"It's a miracle I got round. Some of those fences are way too dangerous. I won't run unless we get the all-clear from the Health & Safety Executive".
And last year's runner-up, McKelvey, told his stable lad:
"They'll have to tie me up in reins and blinker me before I attempt Aintree this year!"
A spokesman for the Jockey Club tried to play down the incident, though, saying:
"It's nothing to worry about. We already know the winner, whether or not the other horses run; now it's just a matter of raking-in the cash through the betting."