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Grand National Race Marred By Horse Deaths
A thrilling end to the Grand National was overshadowed by the deaths of two horses including last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised.
Neptune Collonges became the first grey horse to win the Aintree race in more than 50 years after beating Sunnyhillboy in a photo finish.
The 33-1 shot, ridden by Daryl Jacob, came from behind and lunged at the line to land the honours by a nose against jockey Richie McLernon's 16-1 horse.
It was trainer Paul Nicholls' first victory in the race after sending out 52 previous runners.
The last grey National winner was Nicolaus Silver in 1961.
But there was sad news as big favourite Synchronised, ridden by Tony McCoy, suffered a fatal injury after falling early in the four-and-a-half mile race.
According To Pete also died following a fall during the steeplechase.
The beginning of the race had been delayed for a few minutes after McCoy, on board Synchronised, was tipped out of the saddle.
Although they were reunited before the start, the horse fell at the Becher's Brook fence first time round.
According To Pete, who was brought down at Becher's on the second circuit, was also put down.
Some fences had been modified for the race after a safety review at the course following the death of two horses during last year's National.
The RSPCA told Sky News that serious questions must be asked about the safety of the race.
The organisation's equine consultant David Muir said: "The RSPCA cannot continue to let this go on, whereby we had two horses die last year and a further two this year.
"One of the things we must look at is risk factors - relating to the number of fallers and the number of finishers.
"This unique race... if it is to continue, it must realise horse deaths are unacceptable to the society and the public at large."
Julian Thick, Aintree managing director, said: "We are desperately sad at these two accidents and our sympathies are with the connections of both horses.
"When a horse gets hurt, everyone is deeply upset.
"Safety is the first priority for the organisers of the Grand National and we make every effort to ensure that everyone involved in the event is able to participate safely."
Jacob said of Neptune Collonges' victory: "You can't beat this. I was on a tough horse and I said to Paul that one day I would ride you a National winner.
"That was two years ago and now I've done it."
Nicholls said: "He's probably the best horse we've run in the race.
"He's got great form, he's been placed in Gold Cups, he stays, he's genuine and Daryl gave him a fantastic ride when you analyse where he went. It's absolutely brilliant.
"It's blown Nicky Henderson out of the water now (in the trainers' championship). Any good race would do, but this is the race we wanted."
Katie Walsh, who was aiming to become the first female jockey to win the event, was third on board 8-1 joint favourite Seabass - the best ever finish by a woman rider.
Cappa Bleu, at 16-1, was fourth at the Aintree racecourse.
Walsh said: "I had an unbelievable spin. It was a fantastic experience. It was great to get round.
"I can't believe it's all over and I can't wait to do it again. At the third-last I was going OK but after the second-last I didn't think I was going to win."