TV programme to examine what happens to racehorses after they finish racing

Monday evening’s Panorama programme is titled The Dark Side of Horse Racing

Irish racing is girding itself for another potential reputational blow from Monday evening’s Panorama programme which examines what happens to racehorses after they finish racing.

The programme titled The Dark Side of Horse Racing is scheduled for 8.30pm on BBC1, and is expected to focus on horses that are euthanised in British abattoirs.

Trainers based in Britain have been contacted by the BBC which has billed the programme as “Panorama discovers that off the track many horses suffer career-ending injuries, and rather than being rehabilitated or retrained for life outside the sport, racehorses that have been owned and trained by some of the biggest names in the industry have been put down, some meeting grisly deaths”.

A number of trainers in Ireland were contacted by Panorama as well, including, it is understood, some leading figures here. It is not known if they will feature in Monday evening’s broadcast.


There is little willingness by individuals and organisations to comment ahead of the programme.

Horse Racing Ireland has said it is “not speculating” about content it has not seen. The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association declined to comment too on Sunday, although it is believed up to four of its members were contacted by the BBC team.

It is unclear if the programme will examine possible breaches of rules relating to meat entering the food chain.

However, one racing figure did underline on Sunday that all trainers are recommended to stamp equine passports with “not fit for human consumption” if horses have received certain medications before being put down.


The programme comes on the back of a number of high-profile controversies that Irish racing has had to grapple with this year. The final session held by the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee into claims of doping in the sector by trainer Jim Bolger is scheduled for Tuesday morning. Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine are scheduled to give evidence at 9.30am.

At the start of the year welfare concerns were raised on the back of the Viking Hoard case when the then Charles Byrnes-trained horse was found to have been “nobbled” at Tramore in 2018. Viking Hoard was found to have 100 times the safe limit of the sedative ACP in his system after being doped by an unidentified third party.

There was a public outcry in February over an image that emerged on social media of top trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse.The image had been taken in 2019 after the Gigginstown Stud-owned Morgan died of an aneurysm on Elliott’s gallops,

Elliott subsequently described the picture as an “indefensible moment of madness”. He was subsequently banned from training for a year by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, with six months of it suspended.

Meanwhile, top jockey Rachael Blackmore is reportedly in “good spirits” after sustaining a fractured ankle and an unspecified hip injury following a bad fall at Killarney on Friday. In the short term Blackmore will be forced to miss out on the upcoming Galway festival. However, it is unclear how long she will have to spend on the injury sidelines.

Trainer Henry De Bromhead, with whom Blackmore enjoyed a purple-patch in the spring, culminating in Aintree Grand National glory through Minella Times, gave an upbeat bulletin on her progress on Sunday.

“I spoke to Rachael yesterday morning. She has had her operation and has now to recover. She sounded in good spirits which was great.”


It will cost €120,000 to supplement Snowfall into the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but despite that most bookmakers rate Aidan O’Brien’s dual-Oaks heroine a 9-2 favourite to conquer Europe’s greatest all-aged race in October.

Snowfall became the 15th horse to complete the Epsom-Curragh Oaks double on Saturday, ultimately winning at her leisure by over eight lengths. Last month she won by a record 16 lengths at Epsom.

O’Brien’s other top middle-distance filly, Love, is favourite to challenge Snowfall’s status at the top of the Arc betting by landing this Saturday’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Love is set to clash with Godolphin’s Epsom Derby hero Adayar although the shape of the race is likely to become more clear after Monday’s latest entry stage.

The top older colt Mishriff could yet be confirmed a starter by the John Gosden team. One older star likely to take up the generational challenge is the Coronation Cup winner Pyledriver.

Monday’s domestic action is set for Ballinrobe, where Bowerman is the top-rated horse on show. The 102-rated runner, winner of a valuable contest in Doha during the winter, tops the weights for the featured handicap. However an inside draw and Cian Mac Redmond’s 7lb claim still look to help put him firmly in the mix.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column