“It’s Just Not Cricket…”

Cliffsofmoher pulls up lame in the 2018 Melbourne Cup (The Irish Times)

I just want to let you know right now this has nothing to do with cricket. As in the sport. I just feel like being ironic, ironical or deriving a sense of ‘irony’ whatever it’s called these days. If something is ironic, it is usually sarcastic or unexpected. Sometimes even amusing. But this is far from amusing. Quite the opposite really. It’s about a horse race that now seeks to ‘divide’ a nation.

I’m talking about the infamous Melbourne Cup. A place where jockey’s and horses are sometimes injured. Sometimes critically. Sometimes not. Where the punters go ‘to punt.’ Others for the fashion, the glitz and the glam. Most go to get sozzled really. A place where money matters more than anything. A race in which the odds are never good. Don’t ever back ‘the favourite’ because the bookies never get it right. Almost always it’s four seasons in one day. The dodgy Melbourne weather can’t be trusted. When you’re at Flemington Racecourse for the Melbourne Cup. The first Tuesday of November. Every year like clockwork.

I’m the daughter of an avid punter. A middle-aged man who enjoys going to the races every weekend with ‘the boys.’ Sometimes you collect. Sometimes not. Normalised in Aussie culture. While my dad has a passion for horseracing and owns his own racehorse, I don’t exactly share the same sentiment. When the Melbourne Cup swings around I usually dread it. Like I am unconsciously waiting for a horse to die. If at least one doesn’t die, it’s usually a miracle. My attitudes towards the Melbourne Cup have waxed and waned in the past. Now I just plain loathe and detest it. For the horse’s sake.

2014 really did it for me. When the facade of Melbourne Cup went out the window. When Japanese favourite Admire Rakti, (who won the Caulfield Cup that year) came last. Punters were outraged. What the hell happened?! Australia was given a cold hard dose of reality, when this horse collapsed and died in the stalls five minutes after coming last in the Cup. Travelled all the way from Japan to Australia to die in the most painful and inhumane way.

A massive heart attack and severe internal bleeding were the culprits. That’s what the Aussie public was told. Several hours later, another horse Araldo was euthanised upon shattering a hind pastern bone. All because some stupid kid waved a flag in the horses’ face causing it to jump over a fence and critically injure itself. One race. Two dead horses. It was dubbed the deadliest Melbourne Cup. And it was horrific. I remember. I was inconsolable.

Moral outrage was rife. It was the second straight year horses had died under tragic circumstances at ‘the Cup.’ Verema, died in 2013 when it broke down in the back straight. It’s beggars belief. Underneath the collective sporting agenda lies a guilty conscience. We know horse racing is wrong. That racing kills. That Australia promotes malignant animal cruelty. And that’s just the Melbourne Cup.

Also, under the microscope, is the extent to which horses are being overworked and ‘over whipped’ on the racecourse in the lead up to lucrative racing events. I’m talking about Australia. I can’t speak for everywhere else. Just how far are racehorses being pushed beyond their limitations or capabilities for financial purposes? Obviously, a lot more than we think. There needs to be a cultural shift. A change in the collective mentality. Where an animal’s welfare is elevated above economic incentive or reward.

The death toll has continued. In 2015, British stayer Red Cadeaux was euthanised as a result of fatal leg injuries suffered in the 2015 Cup. Regal Monarch followed in 2017, euthanised after falling during the final stretch of the 2017 Cup. That’s five horses in five years. Until yesterday. When Melbourne Cup tragedy struck again. When Cliffsofmoher had a tragic date with destiny.

Yesterday, Cliffsofmoher suffered a life-threatening shoulder fracture in the Melbourne Cup. Put down there and then on the track, after ‘the race that stopped a nation’ for all the wrong reasons. The sixth horse to die in six years according to RSPCA Australia. Jane Speechley, from RSPCA Australia, said it best; “our thoughts are with animal lovers across the country who have been affected by this loss, and confronted by the very real risks posed by racing to the horses involved.”

I was one of those people. I cried for Cliffsofmoher. At least this horse has now gone to a better place. A place where he is no longer exploited. The thing that got me was the horse was highly agitated before the race and sweating profusely. That should have been a warning sign to the trainers, owners and officials. That horse should not have been forced to run. The outcome might have been different if someone had had the nerve to speak up.

Yes, when the eyes of the world are on you, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture when a horse goes down at the Melbourne Cup. When a horse has to be put down for whatever reason at the Melbourne Cup. Instead, it makes you realise once again, the hype, the pomp and the ceremony ain’t worth it. Also, why are injured racehorses automatically euthanised? Is it because they no longer serve a productive purpose in the ‘racing world’ anymore? What’s the story?

Backlash grows after Melbourne Cup: Jockey Ryan Moore and the injured Cliffsofmoher assisted by a race steward (Newstalk ZB)

A Mover And A Shaker, Not A Faker. Enamoured by all things literarily different. A lover of boundary-pushing. A despiser of sugar-coating. Seeker of the truth.