Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bullfighting and Grand National

Sporting Traditions on the Chopping Block

The spectacle of bullfighting has existed in one form or another since ancient days. For example, a contest of some sort is depicted in a wall painting unearthed at Knossos in Crete, dating from about 2000 BC. It shows male and female acrobats confronting a bull, grabbing its horns as it charges, and vaulting over its back.
    As bullfighting developed, the men on foot, who by their capework aided the horsemen in positioning the bulls, began to draw more attention from the crowd, and the modern corrida began to take form. Today the bullfight is much the same as it has been since about 1726.
    A bullfight typically lasts about 20 minutes, and the bull is stabbed numerous times before the fatal blow delivered with a sword thrust between its shoulder blades.The fighting bulls are specially bred and traditionally a corrida involves six bulls and three matadors, each of whom tackles two bulls.

  The parliament of Catalonia has voted to ban bullfighting - the first region of mainland Spain to do so.The vote took place as the result of a petition brought to parliament, signed by 180,000 people who say the practice is barbaric and outdated. The ban takes effect in January 2012.

Be aware this is a cruel sport. Its not sport in my opinion.

The Bullfight

Grand National
  The first official races at Aintree were organised by a syndicate, headed by the owner of Liverpool’s Waterloo Hotel, Mr William Lynn. He leased the land from Lord Sefton, set out a course and built a grandstand. Lord Molyneux laid the foundation stone on February 7, 1829 and placed a bottle full of sovereigns in the footings. 
    The course staged its initial jump fixture in 1835. On Tuesday, February 26, 1839, Lottery became the first winner of the Grand National. In those days the horses had to jump a stone wall, cross a stretch of ploughed land and finish over two hurdles. The race was then known as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase

 Todays race comprises two full circuits of a 2¼ mile (3,600 metres) course, where challengers will face 30 of the most testing fences in the world of jump racing.

The Fences

  Becher's Brook: Although the fence looks innocuous from the take-off side, the steep drop on the landing side, together with a left-hand turn on landing, combine to make this the most thrilling and famous fence in the horse racing world. The fence actually measures 6 ft 9 in on the landing side, a drop of 2 ft from take off. Horses are not expecting the ground the disappear under them on landing, riders need to sit back in the saddle and use their body weight to act as ballast to keep the horses stable.
   Becher's Brook earned its name when a top jockey, Captain Martin Becher, took shelter in the brook after being unseated. "Water tastes disgusting without the benefits of whisky" he reflected.

    Canal Turn: Made of hawthorn stakes covered in Norway spruce, it gets its name from the fact that there is a canal in front of the horses when they land. To avoid it, they must turn a full 90 degrees when they touch down. The race can be won or lost here, with a diagonal leap to the inside of the jump taking the fence at a scary angle, but reducing the turn on landing.

  Valentine's Brook: The third of four famous fences to be jumped in succession, it is 5ft high and 3ft 3in wide with a brook on the landing side that’s about 5ft 6in wide.

   The Chair:The Chair is both the tallest (5ft 3in) and broadest fence on the course, with a 6ft wide ditch on the take-off side.
In addition, the landing side turf is actually raised six inches above the take-off ground. This has the opposite effect on horses and riders to the drop at Becher's, as having stretched to get over the ditch, horses are surprised to find the ground coming up to meet them. This is spectacular when horses get it right and equally so, for all the wrong reasons, when they don’t.

 This year there were protests at the BBC HQ in White City, to highlight the fact that each year the BBC promotes and broadcasts this event, while covering up the terrible price paid by the horses which are killed or injured in the name of sport and profit.

 Five horse were killed at last year's Grand National meeting – the highest since 1997. During the past decade, 30 horses have died and many others injured at the event. The campaigners say that more than 500 horses have died on British racecourses since March 2007.

    Aintree racecourse said they recognised racing was risky and that they worked hard with organisations such as the RSPCA to minimise the risk. This year in Australia we saw the last steeplechase event on the racing calendar. They have been banned for good. I must admit i have mixed feelings about this as my memories as a child was the great steeplechaser Crisp leaping the hurdles at Flemington Melbourne and winning by big margins but I believe it is a positive move in the end. We must change to improve the world we live in.

     This is arguably the greatest Grand National and highlights many of the dangers involved too horse and rider. The Chair being the most notorious of the jumps and here you can see many falling including Grey Sombrero who had to be destroyed .The great jumper Red Rum versus the gallant Crisp.The thirty jumps over 7 and a quarter kms and the 1973 National I feel shows the spectacle as well as the cruelty.

Grand National 1973

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