The breakdown of a vital piece of machinery to help prevent devastating injuries to racehorses in the Melbourne Cup has set back the preparations for the iconic Flemington race.
New Racing Victoria veterinary protocols have been introduced this year following a review into the death of 2020 Melbourne Cup runner Anthony Van Dyck.
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The 35 acceptors in this year's Melbourne Cup are required to have a CT scan to check the horse's overall health and detect any potential injuries prior to the race.
The measure was introduced after several fatalities in the Melbourne Cup over the prior few years.
However the strict new policy has hit a snag, with the Werribee-based CT scanner breaking down with only 19 of the 35 acceptors having completed the process.
Making matters worse, organisers are relying on a replacement part arriving from the United States in time for the November 2 race.
With international shipping and supply lines still being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, there's no guaranteed the equipment will arrive in time.
Two horses have already been ruled out thanks to the newly introduced policy, with the Danny O'Brien trained potential favourite Young Werther knocked back.
Racing Victoria general manager of integrity Jamie Stier admitted the setback was 'disappointing'.
RV advises that the standing CT scanner at the U-Vet Equine Centre has incurred a mechanical issue and is temporarily out of operation.https://t.co/nJ8O5ZeAsX
— Racing Victoria (@RacingVictoria) October 25, 2021
“Since its installation two years ago, U-Vet advise that the standing CT scanner has examined over 200 horses, and this is the first time it’s had a mechanical issue so the timing is both unfortunate and disappointing,” he said.
“We are taking a pragmatic approach to the situation. All Melbourne Cup acceptors will still be subjected to increased and unprecedented veterinary scrutiny using alternative diagnostic imaging at U-Vet before being cleared to start in next Tuesday’s race.
“Whilst our preference remains to use the technology offered by the standing CT scanner, in its temporary absence we know that the X-rays taken at U-Vet will provide us with improved oversight of the remaining horses, particularly in comparison to previous years, and help to identify any areas that require further examination.
“This was deemed the fairest and most appropriate decision in the circumstances so as not to penalise the connections of those horses who had not been submitted for a standing CT scan since 16 October by excluding them from the race.”
Another horse, Harpo Marx, was also excluded from the Melbourne Cup after their CT results.
Racing Victoria is hoping to have the scanner repaired by this weekend.
Flemington prepares for Cup week crowds
The Melbourne Cup carnival has been launched with confirmation crowds will be allowed into Flemington across four days of racing.
But strict COVID-19 protocols will be in force as the Victoria Racing Club prepares to welcome 10,000 fully vaccinated racegoers on Melbourne Cup day after opening the gates to 5500 spring carnival fans for Victoria Derby on Saturday.
"It's a well deserved reward that we are now going to have a Flemington carnival with a crowd over the next week or two," Victorian racing minister Martin Pakula said.
"There is no better setting than Flemington over this four days to declare that Melbourne and Victoria is back open for business."
VRC chairman Neil Wilson said he was thankful people would return to the track following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions after last year's carnival went ahead without crowds.
"We are grateful to have the opportunity to welcome over 35,000 people attending Cup week this year in a COVID-19 environment," he said.
Victoria Derby favourite Forgot You is one of the more intriguing entries as a southern hemisphere-trained three-year-old.
It's been more than two decades since an Australian three-year-old ran in the Melbourne Cup.
And while Forgot You is yet to pass Cup balloting conditions, the colt can force his way into the field with a weight penalty if he can account for his own age group in the Derby.
"If he wins well on Saturday and pulls up well, we may as well have a crack," co-trainer Natalie Young said.
Other borderline candidates can leapfrog in the Cup via the the Hotham Stakes, a ballot exempt lead-up race to the Cup.
The Cup's overseas-trained representation is well down on previous years.
Last year's winner Twilight Payment, highly regarded Spanish Mission and Away He Goes will be the only internationals in the race.
Sydney jockey James McDonald has been confirmed to ride the British-trained Away He Goes.
But in the absence of a full-blown overseas challenge, Incentivise is set to start one of the shortest-priced Cup favourites in Cup history.
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