Tauranga horse owner's Melbourne Cup agony

By Gary Hamilton-Irvine

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A Tauranga horse owner's dreams of winning Tuesday's Melbourne Cup are over after his horse, which was set to start in the prestigious race, had to be put down.

Phil Bayly's promising stallion Lion Tamer - New Zealand's best chance of Melbourne Cup glory - was destroyed after breaking its leg in an Australia race at the weekend.

The 4-year-old pulled up on the home straight at the A$4million Cox Plate in Melbourne.

He was put down at the Moonee Valley Racecourse following the incident.

Jockey Hugh Bowman sat cradling the head of the horse as he waited for the vets to arrive, The Australian reported.

Mr Bayly, no stranger to owning horses in the Melbourne Cup in the past, said he was devastated and declined to talk further about the loss.

"It's a bit of a blow, I'd really rather not talk," he said.

Lion Tamer's Cambridge-based trainer Murray Baker said the horse had been proven and would have had a shot at winning the prestigious cup.

"It's disappointing because [the horse] was fully qualified for Melbourne Cup, guaranteed to start," Mr Baker said.

The horse could possibly have won the race. "We don't know whatever [could have happened]. But he was certainly a very good, staying horse."

But Mr Baker was philosophical about the loss. "It's just one of those things that happen, we have to accept them."

Lion Tamer was a relatively young race horse whose impressive six wins from 15 starts had many placing him among the favourites to win Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.

The loss of the promising stallion has had an impact on the entire New Zealand racing community, Thoroughbred Racing Action Consortium chief executive Campbell Moncur said.

"Any horse that can go over to Australia and beat the Aussies is a great horse, it's a real shame that he was destroyed."

The stallion's greatest triumph came at the 2010 Victoria Derby, acclaimed as one of the biggest racing events in Australasia.

Lion Tamer was the first New Zealand-bred horse to win the event since 1997.

Mr Bayly celebrated the A$1.5million victory on his wife's birthday, a special moment for the long-standing owner and breeder.

The race was held on Flemington racecourse, the same track used for the Melbourne Cup.

Mr Moncur said the fact Mr Baker took him on to train the horse meant he must have had great promise.

Mr Bayly's closest claim to Melbourne Cup glory came in 1980 when his horse My Blue Denim finished second after an exciting late surge on the home straight.

The 89-year-old will be without a horse in next week's Melbourne Cup.

New Zealand's only remaining hope for glory on Tuesday lies with Palmerston North-bred galloper Booming.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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