Poor odds and high stakes – the disturbing reality of jumps racing

If horse deaths happened in flat races at the same rate they happen in jumps races, a horse would die at almost every race meeting. That’s the sobering truth about jumps racing that stains South Australia’s entire horse racing industry.

The official tally of horse deaths in jumps races and trials since 2009 rose to 74 at the end of the 2020 jumps racing season. In that time, 19 horses died in South Australia and 55 in Victoria.

However, the death toll may actually be far higher. It is difficult to know the true number of fatalities at jumps trials in South Australia, as stewards’ reports on trials are not made public. Beyond the deaths, many more horses are injured from hitting obstacles and in some cases falling.

Jumps racing will never be safe for horses. That’s why RSPCA South Australia is opposed to jumps racing and wants to see all obstacles permanently removed from racetracks.

South Australia and Victoria the only states that still allow jumps racing

Every Australian state except South Australia and Victoria has already stopped jumps racing – many of them decades ago.

New South Wales, where Australia’s first jumps event was held in 1832, banned jumps racing in 1997 under the state’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. The Tasmanian racing industry voluntarily stopped holding jumps events in 2007 due to declining popularity and because jumps events were no longer economically viable. Western Australia hasn’t held jumps races since 1941, while the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland have only held occasional events.

Yet South Australia’s jumps racing season is still allowed to run from February to September across multiple racetracks, including Morphettville, Gawler, Oakbank, Strathalbyn Balaklava, Mount Gambier and Murray Bridge. 

Victoria actually stages many more jumps races than South Australia. 

Most horses competing in South Australian jumps races are from Victoria – and the majority of prize money goes to Victorian owners and trainers.

Jumps racing continues in SA despite mounting evidence against the ‘sport’

Even the South Australian Jockey Club has repeatedly said it would like all jumps racing to cease at its metropolitan track. Yet Thoroughbred Racing SA (which is responsible for race programming) continues to schedule races at Morphettville each year.

This is despite clear evidence – some of which has been known for decades – that a state-wide jumps racing ban is the only way to protect racehorses from this unnecessary ‘sport’.

The evidence includes:

  • A University of Melbourne study finding that horses competing in jumps races are nearly 19 times more likely to die than horses competing in flat races.
  • A 1991 Senate Select Committee recommending that jumps racing be phased out over three years on animal welfare grounds. Almost 30 years later, that expert recommendation is still being ignored.
  • Attendances at South Australia’s main jumps racing event – the Oakbank Racing Carnival – dropping so low that the Oakbank Racing Club Board is constantly trying to find new ways to attract bigger crowds, including free entry to some race days.
  • A public opinion poll showing that 80% of respondents would attend the Oakbank Racing Carnival if jumps racing ceased.
  • Major sponsors withdrawing support for the Oakbank Racing Carnival, including international paint company Dulux, Yalumba Wines, Coopers Brewery and the Australian Radio Network (owners of Mix 102.3FM).
  • A 2016 South Australian Parliamentary Select Committee report into jumps racing in South Australia confirming what many of us already knew – that “….jumps racing presents a greater risk of injury or fatality to horses and jockeys than flat racing, with steeplechase races presenting the greatest risk”.
  • Almost all of the 1,811 submissions received by the South Australian Select Committee supporting an end to jumps racing in SA.

Our position: South Australia must ban jumps racing immediately

RSPCA South Australia is opposed to jumps racing. We want to see all obstacles removed from racetracks. The high risk of a horse suffering serious injury or death as a result of participating in steeplechase and hurdle events makes jumps racing unacceptable.

We are far from alone in this position.

“Providing there is the continual community resentment towards the cruelty association with jumps racing, you’ll find the community pressure will come to bear.”

– Former South Australian Jockey Club chief executive officer Steve Ploubidis, May 2014.

“It’s time for all the trainers and jockeys who are against jumps racing to speak up and have it banned. It’s barbaric and it has no place in the 21st century.”

– Former South Australian racing minister Leon Bignell, April 2017.


“We just believe that jumps racing is not the appropriate part of racing that is good for our brand.”

–  Former SA Jockey Club chief executive Brenton Wilkinson, August 2014.

How you can join the push to ban jumps racing in SA

We can all help to end jumps racing in South Australia. Here’s how:

  1. Don’t attend race meetings that stage jumps races.
  2. Learn the facts by reading more about jumps racing.
  3. Join us in calling on South Australia’s leaders to ban jumps racing now.

Page last updated: 2020.

*Thanks to Ban Jumps Racing for supplying many of the images used on this page.