Mo­her death probe

Ques­tions over raiders

Herald Sun - - RACING - GILBERT GAR­DINER gilbert.gar­diner@news.com.au

THE au­topsy on The Cliff­sof­mo­her will take sev­eral weeks as ve­teri­nary and rac­ing ex­perts pore over the ill-fated Mel­bourne Cup starter’s med­i­cal and ex­er­cise records.

The Ir­ish stal­lion, who fin­ished third in the Caulfield Cup, had to be put down af­ter frac­tur­ing a shoul­der about 1200m into the 3200m race.

The in­jury rate among im­ported horses housed at the Wer­ribee In­ter­na­tional Horse Cen­tre will form part of Rac­ing Vic­to­ria’s re­view of the spring rac­ing car­ni­val.

Pro­fes­sor Chris Whit­ton, who spear­heads equine or­thopaedic re­search at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne, said post­mortem find­ings would form part of a three-year study into the health risks for in­ter­na­tional horses. The study is due to be com­pleted next year.

“We’re spend­ing a lot of time try­ing to un­der­stand it, be­cause it’s not sim­ple, with a lot of fac­tors in­volved,” Whit­ton said. “We need to get much bet­ter at un­der­stand­ing (cat­a­strophic in­juries) be­cause we can’t put up with th­ese in­juries, it’s a real prob­lem that needs to be solved.”

Rac­ing Vic­to­ria recorded a .05 fa­tal­ity rate last sea­son — 22 horse deaths from 43,676 flat race starters. One horse died at Flem­ing­ton in 186 races for the 12 months to last Sat­ur­day’s meet­ing.

But the Cup has been prob­lem­atic, with The Cliff­sof­mo­her the fifth death since 2014.

“With race­horse in­juries it’s ac­tu­ally what hap­pened in the months or weeks be­fore that caused (the death) be­cause it’s ac­cu­mu­lated dam­age over time,” Whit­ton said.

“That horse (The Cliff­sof­mo­her) broke at the 1200m not go­ing par­tic­u­larly fast, it’s much more likely what hap­pened in its pre­vi­ous work or rac­ing that con­tributed to it and some­thing on the day might have ac­cel­er­ated it.”

The feed­back from in­ter­na­tional train­ers at Wer­ribee has been pos­i­tive over­all this year, de­spite a clus­ter of in­juries.

Char­lie Ap­pleby’s Cup hope­ful Ha­mada (frac­tured near-hind leg) had to be eu­thanised last month, while An­drew Bald­ing’s Duretto (stress frac­ture), Ed Dun­lop’s Red Ver­don (bruised heel) and Ap­pleby’s Emo­tion­less (pelvis) had set­backs.

The tracks at Wer­ribee — syn­thetic and turf — are kept to a Soft 5 rat­ing at the re­quest of the in­ter­na­tional train­ers.

But three of the five ma­jor race days this car­ni­val were run on Good 3 sur­faces, in­clud­ing the Caulfield Guineas, Cox Plate and Derby Day.

Rac­ing Vic­to­ria in­tegrity chief Jamie Stier at­trib­uted the in­jury spike at Wer­ribee to the num­ber of im­ports.

He said Wer­ribee had housed on aver­age 21 horses a year for the past five years, but that num­ber had dou­bled to 42 for this car­ni­val.

“We’ll take a look at the in­jury rate … and de­ter­mine whether there are any iden­ti­fi­able risks that we can ad­dress,” Stier said yes­ter­day.

Vic­to­ria Rac­ing Club chief ex­ec­u­tive Neil Wil­son said the club was fully com­mit­ted to work be­ing done by Rac­ing Vic­to­ria around equine safety.

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