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Death provokes call for debate on age limit for veteran steeplechasers

• News emerges that Big Fella Thanks put down in May aged 15
• Eight-race winner had suffered injury in Cheltenham hunter chase

A debate is being sought on the age at which horses should be allowed to take part in jumps races, following the news that the popular Big Fella Thanks was put down due to injuries he sustained in a race at Cheltenham in May, when he was unusually senior for a steeplechaser at 15 years old. Representatives of Animal Aid and the RSPCA have urged racing to consider the issue because, although the sport has a raft of welfare-related measures in place, there is no upper limit on the age of runners, even for the most challenging races like the Gold Cup and the Grand National.

As was reported at the time, Big Fella Thanks fractured the cannon bone in a foreleg on landing over the first fence in Cheltenham’s back straight, when he was joint-favourite for a hunter chase. He was immediately pulled up by his jockey, Noel George, allowing for hopes that he could be saved for retirement.

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