Two horses are now confirmed to have died at this year's Grand National festival.

There were tragic scenes on Ladies Day at Aintree on Friday as seven-year-old Pikar lost his life during the final race of the day. Ridden by Stephen Mulqueen in the Aintree Handicap Hurdle, the horse fell at the penultimate hurdle and broke his neck.

He was treated on the track by the racecourse's veterinary team but sadly died from his injuries.

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Pikar's death came hours after another horse, Giovinco, died after suffering fatal injuries during the first race of the day. The seven-year-old, trained by two-time Grand National winning trainer Lucinda Russell, fell at the last fence in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices' Chase as he challenged for fifth place.

A screen was placed around the horse as he was treated by vets on the track for a considerable time. Thousands of anxious spectators looked on and waited for news but he could not survive his injuries.

Following the deaths, an Aintree Racecourse spokesperson said: "During our first race of the day, Giovinco fell at the last fence and was immediately attended to by our expert veterinary professionals. After assessment, sadly they concluded the necessary course of action for the horse's welfare was to put him to sleep.

"Pikar sadly passed away following a fall at the second last hurdle in the last race of the day, having also been attended to on course by our veterinary team. Our heartfelt condolences are with the connections of both horses.”

A total of 65 horses have now died over the course of the three-day meeting since 2000.

Campaign group Animal Aid said it was "disgusted that more lives have been needlessly lost at this notorious event". The group's director, Iain Green, added: ""If the death toll was this high in any other 'sport', it would be banned immediately.

"However, because it's 'just' horses being killed, then the racing industry and the government seem content to allow these innocent animals to suffer horrific injuries and die."

In light of deaths in recent years, the 2024 Grand National has implemented a number of changes to help maximise safety. The most significant changes include the start time, with the race pushed back from 5.15pm to 4pm in a move to help improve the ground at Aintree.

The number of runners has also been cut, with the total number of horses reduced from 40 to a maximum of 34 for this year. You can read about the changes in full here.