The post below comes from 2019. I have updated it here with statistics relating to 2022, taken from Deathwatch 2022.
Click here to read our Deathwatch 2022 Report.
It is important to note that this and previous years death tolls are almost entirely made up of the deaths we learn of from official race day reports. Countless others are taken away from the racetrack and killed behind the scenes when it is clear they cannot (or were chosen not to) be saved, indicating that although high and devastating, these findings are still grossly understated.
- At least 139 horses were killed on track for a number of reasons, most commonly for catastrophic front limb injury (46)
- On average at least one horse will die on Australian racetracks every 2.5 days
- At least nine horses died from cardiac causes
- The state with the highest recorded deaths was NSW (55) followed by VIC (37) and QLD (20)
- Fifty-five of the horses that were reported to have been killed had been raced as two-year-olds
- Ten horses were only two years old when they died on track
- Two horses are still listed as ‘active’ on the Racing Australia website at the time of writing,
- All states failed on several occasions to upload race replays where a horse died. NSW was the worst culprit, editing or failing to upload replays where a horse died on at least seven occasions.
Remembering Medora, Dispatch, Dulcify, Verema, Admire Rakti, Araldo, Red Cadeaux, Regal Monarch, and Cliffsofmoher–who each died during or soon after racing in the Melbourne Cup.
Today the Melbourne Cup takes place. It has become known as the race that stops a nation. But the reality is, it really should be the nation that stops a race—and all other horse races—because of the cruelty that is integral to the horse racing industry. A brief history indicates this.
The race was first run in 1861 to a crowd of 4,000 people. Two horses died in that first race. An article in the Australian Dictionary of Biography describes the race: Medora’s front legs gave way and she fell heavily, bringing down her jockey, Henderson. Dispatch rounded the turn and somersaulted over her, careered into the picket fence and threw her jockey, Morrison. Next came Twilight who collapsed on top of them, bringing Haynes down with her. Unhurt, she broke loose before heading off across the course and was disqualified. Nearby spectators anxiously dragged the fallen horses off the track before the others came round the course again. The jockeys also sustained injuries; Henderson’s shoulder was dislocated and Morrison’s right collar broken. The injury to his right side was such that he could only walk with assistance and had to be taken to Melbourne Hospital. (see http://adb.anu.edu.au/essay/1)
In 1881, Jockey John Dodd died as a result of injuries received while riding Suwarrow in the race. The horse survived.
In 1979, Dulcify broke his hip 400m from the finishing post in the 1979 Melbourne Cup and was taken to the Melbourne stables of his trainer, where he was euthanased by a vet in the back of a horse float.
In 2013, a horse named Verema was euthanased right on the Flemington racetrack, although green tarps prevented the crowd from seeing what was happening.
Two horses died due to racing in the 2014 Melbourne Cup. Cup favourite Admire Rakti, who was carrying the heaviest weight since Think Big (1975), died of heart failure in his stall after the race, and Araldo broke his leg and had to be euthanased after being spooked by a flag in the crowd after the race.
In 2015, Red Cadeaux, the only horse to finish 2nd in the race on 3 occasions, and a public favourite, did not finish due to a fetlock injury and had to be euthanased 2 weeks later.
In 2017, Regal Monarch broke his right leg and had to be euthanased. Such deaths take place because it is difficult for a horse’s fractured bone to heal. So a broken bone spells death.
In 2018, Cliffsofmoher had to be put down after fracturing a shoulder early in the Cup. He was euthanased on the track, right in front of the grandstand, behind a large green sheet.
In 2015, 132 racehorses died on race courses across Australia due to repeat injuries, according to the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. That’s about one death every three days.
Has that terrible figure produced a response from racing authorities, to lessen the death toll? Not at all—in fact, the number of death has grown in the intervening years. From July 2016 until July 2017, 137 horses died on Australian racetracks. That is an outrageous number.
The most recent set of figures kept by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses indicate that over the past year, the most common reason for a racehorse dying was catastrophic front limb injury (61), whilst 7 horses collapsed and died on the track, 10 horses died from cardiac causes, and 5 horses died from bleeds.
We need to stop this cruelty. This is actually the race that shames a nation. The whole industry, however, is riddled with practices and customs that perpetuate cruelty and cause regular deaths, as the recent ABC 7:30 report has demonstrated. (see https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/the-dark-side-of-the-horse-racing-industry/11614022)
Say Nup to the Cup.