National affront

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THERE are few more emotive subjects in sport than the debate over the Grand National.

That was thrown into renewed focus after Saturday’s thrilling race, when sad news emerged two horses had died

This has provoked a fierce debate over the future of the National and whether the course asks too searching a question of our equine heroes, who may enjoy five-star treatment at their stables, but often have to go through testing exertions on the track and occasionally pay the ultimate price.

It is not an event that we can afford to lose lightly – horse racing is the sixth-biggest employer in the country and the second biggest spectator sport.

The National alone generates over £500m in betting revenue and attracts over 70,000 spectators to Aintree, while Saturday’s race had 10 million viewers.

Though there are strong arguments for the big race to continue, it would be wrong to dismiss public opinion or ignore the urgent recommendations of those who are the guardians of all animal welfare, the RSPCA.

It will not be an easy exercise and whatever recommendations are made, it is impossible to make horse racing, whether on the flat or over jumps, entirely safe. Paul Nicholls, trainer of Saturday’s winner Neptune Collonges, says horses can be more at risk when they are turned out loose in the field.

It is a race that can polarise opinion, but rarely since its inception in 1839 has it needed some common ground.

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Red letter day for price rises

Royal Mail is rationing retailers purchase of stamps to make sure it benefits from the price rise due on April 30.

Royal Mail said the “prudent and appropriate” policy was designed to “protect revenue” Some retailers are running low as customers buy stamps in bulk before the price hike. A first class stamp will rise in price from 46p to 60p.

Darryl Ashton, via email

Chance to visit scenes of battle

Each year the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Battlefield Research Section organises pilgrimages to the battle areas of the First World War. This tour is in September and this year we plan to visit the Somme, Ypres Salient, Arras, Vimy Ridge and Loos if requested. The trips specialise in visiting specific cemeteries or memorials as and when they are requested, and an experienced battlefield guide will accompany each trip, to commentate on the various battles and historic events. We can also assist people in the tracing of war graves from the First World War. The group was formed as a charitable hobby in 1990 by ex-servicemen and we support a variety of ex-service charities and institutions, these trips are open to anyone who might be interested, and we welcome all enquiries who send an SAE.

John Battye, 32 Rhodes Street, Hightown, Castleford, WF10 5LL