Laughing stock or necessary? Debate over whether Racing Victoria’s welfare rules go too far

The Melbourne Cup risks becoming “a laughing stock by an international standard” if Racing Victoria’s stringent vetting requirements funnel fit horses out of the race, according to former race caller Bryan Martin OAM.

But racing analyst Ralph Horowitz believes Racing Victoria had to err on the side of caution to prevent further brand damage from horse deaths in the Melbourne Cup.

Caulfield Cup winner Durston was denied a start in the Melbourne Cup when his mandatory CT scan found a small lesion, despite specialists being unable to determine whether the lesion was old or new, and Chris Waller’s vet finding nothing wrong with the horse.

Makram was also withdrawn by stewards, despite co-trainer Ben Hayes saying “the horse is absolutely fine”, while Le Don De Vie was one of a number of other contenders who wasn’t allowed to even proceed with his Melbourne Cup acceptance due to a failed CT scan.

“That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense,” Martin, who called almost 30 Melbourne Cups and part-owns horses in Australia and internationally, told The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

“You’ve got to appreciate the journey these horses have come on, the pay up to where they are. I don’t know, I think we’ve got to be very careful, or we could destroy the very fabric of what the race is about.

“We want the international competition, it’s critical. We don’t want to see a flood of them, but we’ve got to get the balance right, but we’ve also got to protect what we have and don’t allow our race, an Australian race, to become a bit of a laughing stock by an international standard.

“We’re sort of heading down that path, we’ve got to be very careful. I think we’ve got to reassess it.”

Cup favourite Deauville Legend’s trainer James Ferguson said in the lead-up to the Cup that Racing Victoria’s stringent vetting requirements had “absolutely” put off internationals from targeting the race.

However, former Victorian premier and veterinarian Dr Denis Napthine backed Racing Victoria’s stance.

“I think it’s important for Racing Victoria and the VRC to introduce processes to improve the outcomes and safety for the Melbourne Cup and other races in Victoria,” he said. “This is new technology that has been put in place. I think it’s the best available, but we’ll continue to learn through this process.

“I think it is necessary, I think it’s important, I think it delivers better safety and welfare outcomes, but we will continue to learn and modify the testing procedures, the reading of the tests, to get it better and better over time.”

Horowitz said Racing Victoria had gone too far with the stringent requirements, but it had no choice to protect the brand of Melbourne’s spring carnival.

“The problem with international runners breaking down in the Melbourne Cup was it was a version of the old line ‘heads I win, tails you lose’,” Horowitz said.

“They could either get back on the plane with monster Melbourne Cup prizemoney, or leave behind their horse, which of course stressed them as animal lovers, but from a bigger picture, the brand damage was left with the local industry and participants who put on the show year round.

“As such, Racing Victoria simply had to and has to err on the side of overreacting going forward. The imported runners have created the carnage, so if you overreact that’s better than under-reacting, which had previously been the case.

“I understand why they are going too far.”

Martin said he too understood why, but believed it could be to the detriment of the race.

“We don’t want to see a horse injured, let alone die, and we’ve got to go to the nth degree,” he said.

“I just find it a little bit confusing when you get some of these leading stables from around the world – Godolphin, Coolmore, stables like that – who have the best veterinary care and if there is an issue, it’s probably an issue they’ve managed for a year-and-a-half, two years, and it’s not a problem.

“You’re talking about the finest vets in the world. I find that pretty contradictory, when you bring those horses all the way out here, and we can rule them out. I don’t get that.”

Prominent owner John O’Neill, who is a part-owner in Le Don De Vie, said Racing Victoria had to improve the way it diagnosed the CT scan findings.

“We’ve all been talking about the health of the horses and the care of the horses, which is the most important thing at the end of the day, but what is clear is we’ve just got to get better with this,” O’Neill said on SEN radio on Monday.

“If we are going to do the CT scans, and I think we need to do them, there’s no doubt, we need to be following up [the results].”

News, results and expert analysis from the weekend of sport sent every Monday. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.

Most Viewed in Sport

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article