Moher death probe
Questions over raiders
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.