The Flemington track in Melbourne today hosted its biggest event of the year: The Melbourne Cup. Sadly, as the guests reveled on and millions watched around the globe, one horse suffered a life-ending injury early on in the race.
Irish horse The Cliffsofmoher broke his shoulder in the opening stages, according to ABC, and immediately began to drop back through the pack as the rest of the horses continued on to the finish line.
While the remaining 23 horses cantered on to the finish line, the beautiful black Irish thoroughbred received medical attention. Shortly after the race was over, The Cliffsofmoher had to be euthanized by veterinarians on the site, who had determined that he was “unable to be saved.”
“This was an unfortunate incident that happens infrequently, with Victoria having one of the best safety records in world racing,” a Racing Victoria statement read. “Our sympathies are extended to Coolmore and the Williams family, the owners of The Cliffsofmoher, jockey Ryan Moore, trainer Aidan O’Brien and his staff, who cared for the horse and are greatly saddened by their loss.”
O’Brien later stated that “these things happen to a horse galloping around the field at home,” but added that he was relieved Moore had not been injured in the incident.
“It’s very sad. It could have been worse, Ryan [Moore] could have taken a fall off him, someone could have been seriously injured.”
This wasn't a freak accident. What happened to 'The CliffsofMoher' in today's #MelbourneCup happens every few days in horse racing.
— Animals Australia (@AnimalsAus) November 6, 2018
The backlash from animal rights groups has been severe. PETA released a statement shortly after the news broke, pointing out that The Cliffsofmoher is not the first horse to die on a racetrack, and he certainly won’t be the last if the sport is allowed to continue.
“He’s the latest in a long line of dead horses. Cliffsofmoher was spotted looking very agitated moments before the start and has now been killed after fracturing his right shoulder in the Melbourne Cup. Before they’ve even finished maturing, these 500-kilogram animals are forced to race at breakneck speeds while being whipped and pushed past their limits, supported on ankles as small as those of humans.”
They continued, detailing some of the exact causes of deaths of the 119 horses that died on Australian race tracks between August 2017 and July 2018. “They die of cardiac arrest, haemorrhaging, ruptured aortas, and broken necks, legs, or pelvises,” adding that many horses bred for racing are ultimately abandoned to slaughter.
They concluded with, “Considering Australians hate cruelty to animals, commemorating a day on which horses routinely die in the Melbourne Cup is fundamentally un-Australian. While public holidays give Aussies a break, horses are breaking legs.”
The Cliffsfmoher was only 4-years-old but had already won his owners approximately $1.7 million, according to another statement issued by The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. He has become the sixth horse to die in the Melbourne Cup since 2013.