Protesters who delayed last year’s Grand National say they will not disrupt the 2024 race, but believe a spotlight “continues to shine” on the deaths of horses in the world-famous steeplechase.

Last year the race was delayed by almost 15 minutes after Animal Rising activists gained entry to the course, leading to more than 100 arrests.

On Saturday, Aintree racecourse will hold the main event of the three-day Randox Grand National Festival at the earlier time of 4pm, which organisers hope will “ensure optimal conditions” on the track.

Other changes include a reduced field of 34 horses, down from 40, a standing start, a reduction in height to one of the fences and added foam and rubber toe boards on every fence.

An email said to have been sent by Animal Rising co-founder Dan Kidby to Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale said the group had no intention of disrupting the Grand National.

Mr Kidby wrote: “Animal Rising’s actions last year shone a spotlight on the deaths that happen during the Grand National Festival.

“This light continues to shine and we don’t believe disruption is needed to draw attention to this again.

“Horses have died almost every single year at the Grand National; the safest bet one could make is that a horse would die.

“This continues to be the case in spite of rule changes, which are nothing more than a PR exercise to try to win back public opinion.”

At Ladies Day on Friday the first race of the day saw horse Giovinco fall at the final fence and suffer a fatal injury, while in the last race of the day Pikar suffered a heavy fall and organisers confirmed the injuries were fatal.

Giovinco fell at the final fence on Friday (Steven Paston/PA)

The Jockey Club has previously said changes to the race were not made as a consequence of the protests.

A spokesman for Aintree Racecourse said: “We conduct an evidence-based review process after every Grand National which looks at all aspects of the race.

“The changes that we announced last year are data-driven and the result of a detailed assessment of recent Grand Nationals and the analysis of trends and statistics relating to the race over many years.”

More than 44,000 racegoers attended Ladies Day and about 80,000 are expected at the Liverpool racecourse on Saturday.

Pictures showed punches being thrown among a group of men on the racecourse on Friday afternoon.

Merseyside Police said they were called to reports of an altercation outside the Princess Royal Stand at 2.25pm.

The force said eight men were arrested throughout the day – four on suspicion of affray, two on suspicion of assault, one on suspicion of a drug offence and one who was alleged to be drunk and disorderly.