April 11: Op-ed: In a couple of hours one of the most cruel steeplechase horse races in the UK gets underway.
The Grand National is a gruelling race for the horses and their riders but of course the jockeys have a choice whether to participate or not.
There will be injuries sustained by both horses and riders but for too many horses their pain will end their racing and perhaps their life.
So call this a sport but animal activists see it simply as animal cruelty.
The annual Grand National, once called the "housewives race" due to the amount of women betting on the outcome, will be run at Aintree this afternoon. Race managers insist year upon year that modifications have been made to improve the safety of this race but animal welfare groups are not convinced. It is a rough and tumble steeplechase race with some tough jumps.
Betting on this race is still popular and an estimated quarter of the adult population of the UK will have a ‘flutter’ many just because they fancy the horses’ name.
Around 10 million viewers are expected to watch the race on TV in the UK.
The Grand National race usually involves up to 40 riders. Some animal welfare groups want this figure revised down to 30 but for now at least the best we can hope for is a safe race for the competing horses, and their jockeys.
Race Horse Death Watch has shocking figures with the latest being "1254 Deaths in 2952 Days." In early April 2013 the figures were 946 in 2217 days. Early figures such as in March 2012 when it was 804 deaths in 1830 days illustrate how many horses are killed and how frequently.
Remember horse racing is seasonal not 24/7.
In spite of such shocking figures the race will be run and here is the latest information.
BBC Sport has details of the 40 horses declared for today's race which you can find here.
Those interested in the race for what it is will be trying to pick a winner. This is never easy in the Grand National. The tough "jumps" mean it can be any horses race. Outsiders with extreme odds have won in the past which means traditional methods for trying to pick a winner may not work for the National.
Veteran jockey A P McCoy is set to ride one favourite Shutthefrontdoor and if he wins the boookies are in for a pasting. Race pundits predict the bookies could lose £50m if he coasts to victory.