‘Distressing’ detail exposes ‘cold’ Cup truth
The Melbourne Cup has never looked more like a graveyard than it has in recent years - but the truth is even more frightening for international runners.
The disturbing statistics surrounding international raiders that have arrived in Melbourne for the Spring Carnival to pinch the Cup are now undeniable.
Overseas raiders have dominated the Melbourne Cup in recent years - and also the ambulances on their way to the Werribee Equine Centre after the race.
11 of the 12 placings in the past four runnings of the richest handicap race on the planet have come from overseas.
International runners also make up five of the seven deaths since 2013.
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Early Cup favourite Anthony Van Dyck joined the list on Tuesday when the four-year-old Lloyd Williams-owned horse broke down on the Flemington straight and had to be euthanised.
The bay stallion is the second horse in three years to die because of an injury sustained in the Melbourne Cup after Cliffs of Moher was euthanised in 2018. Both horses were trained by the same trainer, Aidan O'Brien.
The disturbing link between the deaths and the international entrances was spotted by Melbourne sports identity Gerard Whately on Wednesday in a moving column about the Cup's bleak future on its current path.
As pointed out by the SEN radio commentator and Fox Footy host, the Cup's most pressing issue is saving the international superstars that arrive in Australia for the riches of the Carnival and never return home.
Whateley wrote in a column for SEN, the price of international runners sent into quarantine at the Werribee International Horse Centre before the Cup only to die on the track is no longer acceptable.
"For the fifth time in eight years a horse died having run in the Melbourne Cup," Whateley wrote.
"The best horse to set foot on Australian shores in almost two decades died on the Flemington track behind the screens opposite the Makybe statue. Thank god there was no one there to see it.
"The death of English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck is devastating. What you will hear in response are statistics justifying the low mortality rate in Victorian racing, and this is true, and you will hear how wonderfully cared for racehorses are, and this is true, but the truth when it comes to the Melbourne Cup is hard and cold.
"Vareema, Admire Rakti, Red Cadeaux, The Cliffs of Moher and Anthony Van Dyck all died as a result of their participation in the race.
"All were international horses coming out of the quarantine centre at Werribee.
There's not a scientist or mathematician in the world that wouldn't recognise this as a cluster. It's as upsetting as it is confronting and it's worse than that. 29 horses arrived in Australia from overseas to contest this year's Spring Carnival, three are dead and at least two others have suffered career-ending injuries. That's a frightening toll.
"Dead horses were never part of the Melbourne Cup. If they were, the race would never have won its way into our national affection."
Whateley said if Racing Victoria can't take immediate and drastic action then it will be up to Victorian Racing and Sports Minister Martin Pakula to kick them out and re-build the Cup with officials that can keep the iconic 3200m race alive for the next generation.
There won't be a next generation if nothing changes. Not for the Cup.
"So I want to be really clear about this and I will make no effort to disguise my anger and I will make not apology to those who will be affronted, the spate of deaths in recent Melbourne Cups is a national disgrace and is now beyond the point of crisis," Whateley summed up.
His thoughts were echoed by Williams after the Cup when the larger-than-life owner opened up on the death of his horse Anthony Van Dyck - despite celebrating his $4.4 million payday on Cup winner Twilight Payment.
He said the way the Werribee quarantine facility is set up actually brings niggling injuries from horses to the surface before horses even race in Australia.
"Werribee's starting to be a problem, I think," Williams told Sportsday radio in the hours after Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.
"It's showing up horses that might come to Werribee with little problems are going away with big problems. And we've seen a lot of that in the last five years, I suppose.
"It's very sad, because we had a horse we owned that broke its shoulder in the Melbourne Cup three years ago and now this horse (Anthony Van Dyck has been euthanised) today. There's been quite a lot of other horses lost as well.
"Whether you attribute that all to Werribee... horses could come out here from overseas with minor problems, and every horse that was going around in the Melbourne Cup today would have a minor problem.
"But it seems to be that when you get the minor problems and they get down to Werribee they are accentuated. The difficulty, it's a very tight track ... and as soon as you go out to the straight you go to a crossing.
"And when you have the crossings on tight tracks trouble's going to occur eventually. We saw it unfortunately in the Bendigo Cup last Wednesday when that horse, Super Girl, broke down at the crossing going out of the straight.
"They eliminated the crossings at Flemington many years ago with tunnels, they did it at Caulfield. That's the problem. When you go off that grass surface, hit a corner and they're going flat out, and trouble happens."
Racing Victoria's integrity chief Jamie Stier said on Wednesday an investigation will be launched into the series of deaths in the Melbourne Cup in recent years.
Originally published as 'Distressing' detail exposes 'cold' Cup truth