An animal rights group is calling for an urgent review into the safety of a racecourse following the deaths of two horses at the weekend.

Horses Head Rush and Eastbury were put down within hours of each other during a meet at Plumpton Racecourse on Sunday (May 11).

Dean Stansall, from Animal Aid, described the course's safety record as “awful” with 29 horse deaths since March 2007.

He said: “Similar courses across the country have had far fewer fatalities. For example Hexham up north has had seven while Lingfield, Surrey, nine.

“They need to find out what is happening and act on it. The onus is now on the racecourse and the British Horseracing Authority - who self regulate.

“If they can't get to the bottom of it then there should be an independent review.”

Head Rush, a six-year-old gelding, was battling for the lead in the first race of the day when he pulled up.

A veterinary team rushed onto the course and he was put down.

Just hours later during the final race, six-year-old Eastbury was in the middle of the field when he lost his action.

Vets rushed to the scene, put up a white screen and put the horse down.

While Plumpton is a jump course, fences were not thought to have contributed to either of Sunday's deaths.

Head Rush went down on a flat section between fences while Eastbury was racing a flat race.

As a result Mr Stansall said answers were needed over the state of the ground.

He added: “It is difficult to say what the problem is because we haven't got access to all the information. It would appear there is possibly an issue with the ground. They need to find out what is going on.

“What's concerning is that two horses died on the same race day last year so lessons have not been learned.”

A spokesman for the racecourse defended their record adding fatalities compared to runners had decreased over the past decade.

He added: “Horseracing is a sport that is very carefully regulated and monitored by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). High standards of horse welfare are demanded and none of our 16 fixtures held annually can take place unless key BHA welfare criteria has been satisfied.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, as with participation in any sport involving speed and athleticism, the risk of injury can never be completely removed.

“We will examine closely the circumstances which led to both incidents.”