AN animal rights group has expressed its concerns after three racehorses died within an hour of each other at a North Yorkshire course.

The horses all died whilst racing at Catterick Racecourse on Tuesday afternoon (February 26) within a few moments of each other.

In the 4.20 hurdle race, Irish-owned horse, Soft Spoken Guy, collapsed and died of a heart attack having finished the race, whilst Stop On, an eight-year-old gelding suffered a broken front leg.

About 30 minutes later, No Way Hozay, owned by County Durham businessman John Wade, broke a hind leg when jumping the last fence in the two mile handicap chase and had to be destroyed.

Animal rights group Animal Aid, which is campaigning to ban the Grand National, said the course was too cut up, leading to bad racing conditions. The campaign group’s horse racing consultant, Dene Stansall said: “Catterick in the past has been pretty good. In 2012 they only had two horses die there.

“But here we have three horses die in one day. That does ring alarm bells.”

Mr Wade, from Morden, near Sedgefield, said he had no issue with the condition of the course.

He said: “It was just bad luck. Just one of those things.”

The British Horseracing Authority also refuted Animal Aid’s claims, saying softer ground was statistically safer for horses and it was very rare for more than one incident to occur in one day.

A spokesman said: “It is typical of Animal Aid, an animal rights campaigning group whose stated aim is to ban horseracing, to attempt to cynically use the sad fatalities of three racehorses to raise their public profile on a day when those connected with the horses will be grieving their loss.”