A RACECOURSE in the North-East has been named as the most lethal in the country - with 11 horses dying in the past year.

Sedgefield Racecourse has been highlighted by charity Animal Aid as part of its Race Horse Death Watch campaign.

The County Durham course comes out worst of Britain's 59 courses with 11 deaths, two on the same day, since March last year.

Other courses in the region fare better with four deaths at Carlisle, two at Newcastle and one at Catterick.

Dene Stansall, Animal Aid's horseracing consultant, said: "Sedgefield is the worst course in the country, with an appalling record.

"Throughout the year, horses are perishing on racecourses up and down the country.

"If the public knew what they were supporting with their betting and course attendance money, they would turn their backs on this so-called sport."

Animal Aid said 400 horses were "raced to death" within the horse racing industry in the past year - with 164 deaths occurring during or shortly after a race.

Charlie Moore, Sedgefield clerk of the course, accepted that 11 horses had died on the track.

But he said that the course is inspected by himself and the British Horse Racing Authority before each race day and steps are taken to minimise any risk.

He said: "Risks are constantly evaluated and reduced but accidents, when one is dealing with a sport in which horses and riders are working in a highly competitive environment, will happen."

In 2005 it was awarded the runner-up prize in the jumps category of the National Groundstaff competition, which recognises the efforts, care and improvements made to improve the racing surface on Britain's 59 racecourses.

Mr Stansall said one excuse some smaller courses sometimes used was not being able to attract the quality of horses that larger courses can.

Nationally, Aintree is recorded as having three deaths and Cheltenham, nine.

"There are things that can be done to prevent deaths at any course, they can make the jumps slightly more forgiving, or they can tailor the course to the quality of the horseracing there,"

said Mr Stansall.

Animal Aid is cataloguing all racecourse horse deaths. To view the statistics, visit horsedeath watch.com