By - Reuters
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) -The start of the annual Grand National horse race was briefly delayed on Saturday after a large group of animal rights protesters forced their way into the Aintree grounds to disrupt one of the highest-profile sporting events in Britain.
Police said they had arrested 118 people on suspicion of offences including criminal damage and causing public nuisance after protesters sought to scale the perimeter fence and access the track to prevent the 40 horses from starting the race.
Officers were seen pinning some protesters in pink tops to the ground while others were pulled from ladders. Television footage showed a few protesters making it on to the track and trying to attach themselves to a fence, before being dragged away by officers.
The race eventually started 14 minutes after its scheduled time of 1615 GMT, with the arrival of the jockeys prompting a huge roar from the vast crowd.
"Just after 5pm a large number of protesters attempted to gain entry to the course," Assistant Chief Constable Paul White said. "The majority were prevented from breaching the boundary fencing thanks to our planning and the work of my officers.
"I can confirm a total of 118 people have been arrested today."
Animal rights protesters say the Grand National exploits animals for entertainment and can lead to the death of horses. The BBC said three horses had died at the 2023 meeting in total.
(Reporting by Kate Holton and Phil Noble; Editing by Jan Harvey, Giles Elgood, Pritha Sarkar and Clare Fallon)