The reason why not ONE horse broke down and tragically died at Melbourne Cup 2021 – after six deaths in recent years threatened to ruin the race
- Last straw was when horse Anthony Van Dyck died in the 2020 Melbourne Cup
- Racing Victoria adopted 41 safety recommendations made after an inquiry
- Bone scans and CT/MRI scans of the horses’ lower limbs is now mandated
After six horses died in the Melbourne Cup since 2013, racing authorities finally had to question what was going wrong and to do something about it.
To not do so would have risked its status as being ‘the race that stops the nation’.
The Australian public was tiring of seeing a horse die almost every year, right in front of them on their high definition TV screens.
The last straw came when a horse called Anthony Van Dyck died in last year’s Melbourne Cup, leading to an inquiry.
He was an Irish-bred stallion, trained by Aidan O’Brien, one of horse racing’s most successful ever trainers.
Jockey Hugh Bowman rides Anthony Van Dyck during trackwork at Werribee Racecourse. The horse was euthanised after an injury at the 2020 Melbourne Cup
Another Aidan O’Brien-trained horse, The CliffsofMoher, was euthanised after getting injured in the 2018 Melbourne Cup
All six of the horses that had to be euthanised in recent years had flown in from Europe or Japan.
The last time an Australian or New Zealand horse died in the Cup was 1979 when Dulcify broke its pelvis and had to be put down.
The high fatality rate since 2014 made the two-mile handicap Melbourne Cup one of the world’s deadliest races, which led Racing Victoria to look very closely at how international horses are cared for during the Spring Carnival.
A report by Racing Victoria into the death of Anthony Van Dyck found it was lame a month before breaking down in the Melbourne Cup.
But a CT scan was not carried out to determine the extent of the horse’s injuries.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained CliffsofMoher was euthanised after the 2018 Melbourne Cup
Mr O’Brien was not at the Melbourne Cup last year due to Covid-19 restrictions. The report made no criticism of Mr O’Brien, the management of the Anthony Van Dyck or the treating vet.
The report made 44 recommendations, of which Racing Victoria adopted 41.
The new measures focus on greater screening of international horses who travel to Australia for the Melbourne Spring Carnival, and of all horses – local or from overseas – competing in the Cup itself.
The use of bone scans called scintigraphy and CT/MRI scans of the horses’ lower limbs is now mandated for all horses within two to six weeks of travel, while a Racing Victoria-appointed veterinarian must conduct an inspection in pre-travel quarantine.
Pre-race veterinary inspections are also carried out to spot lameness in horses that make them unfit to run.
Racing Victoria bought a standing CT scanner in 2019 and, following the report, its use is now mandatory for Cup entrants.
‘Racing Victoria has a statewide team of 60 veterinarians who work on-course to support the health, welfare and safety of every horse competing in the 550 race meetings conducted in Victoria each year,’ a Racing Victoria spokesman said in a statement.
‘The pre-race veterinary inspection is to ensure, as far as possible, that all horses participating in the above-mentioned races are in a suitable condition to do so, and that their performance will not be compromised by a pre-existing injury, illness or degenerative condition.’
Other available tests include cortisol testing, where blood serum, saliva or urine is used to test the concentration of cortisol to gauge a horse’s stress levels after training.
All of this has led to a safer Melbourne Cup, with no horse having died today.
It won’t satisfy everyone, but it will help most people feel better about the race that continues to stop a nation.
RACEHORSE TRAGEDIES: THE GRIM MODERN HISTORY OF THE MELBOURNE CUP
A healthy Rostropovich (left) during a trackwork session at Flemington racecourse a week ago
Animal rights activists have repeatedly pointed out that six horses have died at the Melbourne Cup since 2013.
2013: French mare Verema is put down after snapping a bone in her leg and failing to finish the race
2014: Admire Ratki collapses and dies in his stall after the race.
Meanwhile, Araldo breaks his leg and is euthanised
2015: Red Cadeaux suffers a bone fracture
The horse was euthanised a fortnight later
2017: Regal Monarch is euthanised after breaking down in race four of the Cup
2018: Cliffsofmoher is euthanised in front of the crowds at Flemington after breaking its shoulder
2020: Pre-race favourite Anthony Van Dyck broke down during the race and was euthanised, sparking an inquiry that led to tighter measures for this year’s Cup
Jockey James McDonald riding Verry Elleegant wins the Melbourne Cup horse race on November 2, 2021