Official investigations into the deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete in Saturday's John Smith's Grand National are "reasonably advanced" according to the British Horseracing Authority.
The safety of the contest is once again being questioned by welfare groups even though this year's National was the first to be run since an extensive safety review which led to a number of changes. The RSCPA have urged further review, particularly into 'drop' fences such as Becher's.
"In November last year, the BHA published the findings from a comprehensive and detailed review of all elements of the Grand National. We believe it would be premature to suggest that modifications to the course and other changes have not been effective or will not yet prove to be effective," said BHA chief executive Paul Bittar in a statement:
"Since the review and the implementation of changes, four races have been held over the course without incident prior to the running of the Grand National. We are reasonably advanced in the process of examining the incidents which led to Synchronised and According To Pete being put down.
"While that process still needs to be completed, it is relevant to point out that although both horses lost their riders jumping Becher's Brook, Synchronised galloped away from the fence seemingly without injury and then subsequently incurred a fracture to a hind leg when jumping riderless, while According To Pete was brought down by another horse on the second circuit.
"We will be collating all the relevant information and data from this year's Grand National meeting so that it can be reviewed in conjunction with the statistics and findings of the review.
"Initiatives such as speed sensing on the runners in races over the Grand National course will enable BHA and Aintree to make informed decisions based on factual evidence in our efforts to minimise risk where possible.
"The evidence indicates that the changes and improvements in safety made over the years have led to an overall decrease in injury and fatalities, both on the Grand National course and racing in general. It is important these matters be judged over a period of time.
"Sadly, there have been two fatalities in each of the last two runnings of the race. Naturally our objective is for there to be no fatalities, but we also recognise that we cannot remove risk altogether from such a competitive activity. The Grand National is a unique race and it represents a unique challenge for the sport and for its regulation.
"We will be working with Aintree and its owners the Jockey Club, along with other groups in the sport, to find the right balance which enables us to maintain the highest standards of safety for our horses and participants and to promote the sport to the widest possible audience."