Never have those opposed to horseracing had their point proved so emphatically as in yesterday's Melbourne Cup.
Jockey Zac Purton took the favourite Admire Rakti for what would be his last race. Sensing something was wrong with almost a kilometre left to run, the favourite finished in last place virtually walking over the finish line.
Zac Purton and Admire Rakti leave the track after finishing last during the Emirates Melbourne Cup race at Flemington. Photo / Getty Images
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Why Mr Purton didn't withdraw the horse from the race altogether as soon as he knew something was wrong will be the subject of some speculation. Perhaps the immense pressure from the trainer and owner contributed to his decision to continue racing a horse in distress. Admittedly pulling a horse out of a race that it is the favourite for is nothing less than a very big call on a jockey's part. Would it have saved Admire Ratki's life and meant he could go on to perhaps win the next important race? Abandoning the race may have also spared this horse the inevitable pain and suffering that goes along with what is likely to have been acute heart failure.
Ruptured blood vessels in the lungs of race horses are a common result of extreme exercise and the deep inhalations of these highly aerobic animals. According to the respected Merck Veterinary Manual, 93 per cent of thoroughbred horses in active training will have some degree of bleeding in the lungs. This condition can progress to a massive lung bleed and subsequent heart failure which is being considered in Admire Rakti's death.
The fact that bleeding in the lungs is so common in race horses gives substantial support to the main concern from those opposed to horse racing - horses are overworked and over exercised. Certainly a horse would not normally run at such speeds for the time and distance required by participating in a race.
With regard to the other casualty of the day, Araldo, who broke his leg after being startled by a spectator waving a large flag, I am inclined to agree that this was indeed a freak accident.
It is not completely surprising that a horse would react in such a way, so common sense would suggest that spectators should be advised not to bring such items or have them removed. Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing and of no help whatsoever to the two victims of yesterday's Melbourne Cup Race.
Blog: The truth about horse racing
There's a suggestion that amongst all this excitement there is a more sinister element. Some animal welfare groups believe horse racing is nothing more than the exploitation of animals for entertainment and financial gain, claiming cruel practices throughout the industry. Concerns are across all types of racing, not just the flat racing events such as the Melbourne Cup.