Melbourne Cup avoids tragedy after groundbreaking moves pay off

Melbourne Cup winner Gold Trip leads the field, ridden by jockey Mark Zahra.
Melbourne Cup winner Gold Trip led the entire field safely past the post, the second year in a row the Cup has been run without incident. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Racing officials are hopeful the second Melbourne Cup to be run in as many years without a death or major injury is a sign that increased veterinary protocols have been keeping the field safe.

Save for non-finisher Interpretation, who was later declared fit by connections, the entire Melbourne Cup field crossed the line healthy for the second year in a row.

ROUGH: Patrick Moloney cops huge ban after runner-up finish in Melbourne Cup

TURNAROUND: Melbourne Cup winner Mark Zahra's redemption

Significantly more comprehensive veterinary screenings for all entrants in the weeks leading up to the Melbourne Cup were implemented following the death of Irish racehorse Anthony van Dyck during the running of the 2020 event.

Racing Victoria are confident the increased measures have thus far been effective in identifying potential injuries that could cause significant damage were a horse to then compete in the Melbourne Cup.

The measures were introduced after it was found that concerns had been raised about Anthony can Dyck's condition in the weeks leading up to the 2020 Melbourne Cup, however officials and trainers failed to submit the horse for a CT scan.

The Irish stayer died after shattering its fetlock in the closing stages of the race, having been found lame just one month earlier.

Racing Victoria head veterinarian Dr Grace Forbes said that while their confidence was buoyed by the successful running of the past two Cups, each of those was 'only one year'.

“We do understand the media and general public have more of a focus on what we’re doing, but what we’re doing is the same all of the time,” she told Newscorp.

“Any of the decisions we make, we make a point of it when we go behind the barriers, I don’t know what the horses are, I don’t know which horse is the favourite, they’re just horses competing.

“We are all very cognisant of the amount of work that goes into getting a horse to the races and it doesn’t matter what race that is, whether it is Melbourne Cup or Casterton Cup, we apply the same level of diligence and care to all of those decisions.”

Anthony Van Dyck, pictured here in the background after falling during the Melbourne Cup in 2020.
Anthony Van Dyck can be seen in the background after falling during the Melbourne Cup in 2020. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images for the VRC)

Trainers begrudgingly accept Melbourne Cup cautionary measures

The increased measures were directly responsible for several entrants being scratched from the Melbourne Cup last week.

The Chris Waller-trained Durston was ruled out on Thursday last week, with Waller not pleased about the verdict but ultimately understanding.

Scans showed a small 'grey area' on Durston's left hind leg, and though officials couldn't agree on a specific diagnosis, they made the choice to err on the side of caution.

Waller said it was a 'disappointing' turn of events, but understood the officials' position so far as safety was concerned.

“The specialists cannot determine whether it is old or new (injury), or whether it is even something to be concerned about, but we must respect this,” Waller said.

Horse trainer Chris Waller is pictured.
Chris Waller was disappointed by Lunar Flare's late scratching from the Melbourne Cup, but said he respected the opinion of veterinarians in the matter. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

“It is all about safety, for the horse, and for the rider and the longevity of the horses. It is very disappointing for all connections of the horse, as well as my stable, because so much time and effort goes into these horses; it’s just heartbreaking.

“Durston is sound, he galloped well on Tuesday morning and my vet trotted him up following this however we must respect modern science and learn from this. The horse will undergo an MRI scan to investigate further.”

Less pleased about a similar decision was fellow trainer Grahame Begg, whose horse Lunar Flare was scratched on the morning of the Cup.

“She improved markedly overnight, but in their opinion, not enough,” Begg said.

“To be truthful, we thought she was good enough to run. But it’s the Melbourne Cup and they (Racing Victoria) are under pressure and they want horses to be absolutely perfect.

“I can understand that but there will be other horses going to the races today that will trot out a lot worse than her.”

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.