Racing world in shock after horse euthanised at Warrnambool jumps carnival

Six-year-old jumps horse St Arnicca suffered a catastrophic injury on the second-last jump in the Brierly Steeplechase.

St Arnicca is pictured winning the Grand National Steeplechase in Ballarat in August 2022.
Racehorse St Arnicca had to be put down after suffering a catastrophic injury in a fall at the Warrnambool jumps carnival. (Photo by Brett Holburt/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

The first day of the three-day Warrnambool jumps carnival has been marred by the death of racehorse St Arnicca, after the six-year-old gelding lost his footing on the second-to-last jump in the Brierly Steeplechase on Tuesday. Fortunately, jockey Tom Ryan was able to walk away unscathed after being attended to by trackside medical staff.

St Arnicca was not so lucky, with on-course veterinarian determining he had suffered a catastrophic injury that he would not recover from. He was euthanised humanely on track a short time later.

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The Warrnambool jumps meet has long been a target of criticism from animal welfare groups who believe the jumps expose horses to unacceptable risk of injury. The latest death at the annual carnival has sparked more criticism from those opposed to the sport.

In a statement released soon after the incident, Racing Victoria pledged to open an investigation into the incident and commit to any improvements to be made as a result. “The racing incident has been referred to the jumps review panel to consider the circumstances and any potential safety enhancements,” the statement read.

“In addition, a post-mortem will be performed on the horse at the University of Melbourne Veterinary Clinic as is standard practice. RV extends its condolences to the owners of St Arnicca, his trainer Paul Preusker and his stable staff, who cared for the horse and are saddened by their loss.”

On social media, Animal Justice party MP Georgie Purcell said she had given a speech to Victorian Parliament about the dangers of jumps racing, only to emerge to the news a horse had died on the first day of the Warrnambool carnival. The latest incident comes after a two-year-old girl and an 80-year-old woman were seriously injured in a freak accident at the same venue, in which a horse leapt a racetrack fence at the Grand Annual carnival in January.

"I just spoke in parliament about Victoria being the only state left to hold jumps races," Purcell wrote on Twitter. "I walked out to the news that St Arnicca has just been killed on the track at the Warrnambool Carnival — after falling over the second last hurdle. And we think we’re progressive."

Nine horses, including St Arnicca, have died at the Warrnambool carnival since 2016. Victoria is the only state in Australia which sanctions jumps racing.

South Australia bans jumps racing after RSPCA statistics

South Australia put an end to jumps racing in 2022, with the racing industry in the state winding down events before it was eventually outlawed by the state government. South Australian trainers are still permitted to prepare horses for interstate events.

The decision was based on statistics collected from an RSPCA study, which showed that in 12 jumps races held in Victoria from January to July in 2022, that 12 horses fell. They also found that 12% of jumps horses suffer injuries compared to just 4% in flat ground racing.

St Arnicca is pictured with a strapper.
St Arnicca won the Grand National Steeplechase at the Ballarat Racecourse in August of 2022. (Photo by Brett Holburt/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

"South Australia is now the second state to ban the sport through legislation after New South Wales. Victoria is the only jurisdiction in Australia that now holds jumps racing events," a statement from the government read from July last year, when the ban was legislated. "While the SA racing industry itself has ceased programming jumps events, the new law will give certainty to the industry and the public that jumps racing in SA is over.

"While jumps races were once an intrinsic part of the racing industry, it has fallen out of favour with the public who find the number of falls and deaths unacceptable."

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