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The Roar



The race that breaks the nation

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Roar Guru
5th November, 2020

The Melbourne Cup might be my favourite day on the Australian sporting calendar full stop.

But unfortunately, the events of Tuesday’s cup and the previous eight years have shone the spotlight on heartbreak on race day.

I by no means am a lefty when it comes to the Melbourne Cup and you won’t see me holding a sign that reads #nuptothecup outside my local parliamentarian’s office. I love the cup and enjoy what it brings to my city every year.

But unfortunately, it’s suddenly become a very anxious sight for just over three minutes on that first Tuesday in November. I admire the calibre of horses and the equine history that each winner makes itself a member of.

Every year I look back and watch a replay of the great race the night off to see where my horse has finished and how it faired after the 3200m. This year nothing changed I watched my horse Twilight Payment hold the lead and won the race.

The replay I watched was on a national broadcaster and as the final 400 metres of the race were run a close tight angle of the leader was shown. I didn’t realise why at the time but soon realised it hid the vision of top weight Anthony Van Dyck crippled in the background.

I understand that vision was distressing and it was probably wasn’t in viewing audience’s best interest to witness that moment, but are we not just hiding the real race, the event that has become more than just a great race but more just brushing over the fact that we will be here next year at the same time and the same venue to probably witness another horse suffer a similar fate.

I might lose a few readers here with some facts but stay with me. Since 2013 five horses have died either during or shortly after the race. The top weight in 2014 and recently 2020 have both carried 58.5 kg and struggled to pull up after the race. The only contrasting statistics that all five horses have is that they are bred overseas in Europe or Asia, making them face a mandatory quarantine in Melbourne’s Werribee facility.

The international horses that race in the cup make up at least 50 per cent of the cup’s overall field. This year’s winner was bred in Ireland and travelled across.


Racing Victoria issued a statement earlier in the week that “no stone would be left unturned” in finding the reason for the death of Anthony Van Dyck, but what happened in previous years with Admire Rakti in 2014 or Regal Monarch in 2017? Why is this allowed to happen again and again in such tragic circumstances?

The Melbourne Cup is undoubtedly one of the hardest races in the world and the prize and glory that comes along with it is idolised worldwide. That’s why Bart’s 12 cups and Makaybe Diva’s three cups are etched not only into equine history but Australian sporting history.

Alleboom ridden by Craig Williams wins the Schweppervescence Plate

(Pat Scala/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

But we can’t keep overlooking the obvious the reason that heads drop even after they had money on the winner. Unfortunately, that was me when I heard that Anthony Van Dyck had been loaded into an ambulance and was being examined by a vet.

The scenes of Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup are changing the face of the race forever and unfortunately are moulding the race for the next generation into a vastly different theatre that anyone is close to coming to terms with. How do you explain to a child that your horse has died in the most simplified of Melbourne Cup sweeps?

When the Melbourne Cup had run its course I was looking for the storylines that would emerge, whether it’s a jockey winning in his first-ever ride in a cup or an owner winning his seventh. This was not the editorial I thought I would write and I didn’t want to, but the race is changing.

The people of Australia and all lovers of the cup deserve an answer and an explanation on what caused the death of Anthony Van Dyck in the most open and upfront way that is possible and steps must be taken to ensure this never happens again. The race will never stop due to the amount of revenue it brings, but enough is enough when it comes to cruelty.

People are sick and tired of deaths being pushed under the rug and forgotten again but accountability needs to be taken by the VRC to fully understand the events and bring an end to the tragedy.