Why the Melbourne Cup should be put out to pasture

The field runs the straight during Melbourne Cup Day. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
The field runs the straight during Melbourne Cup Day. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

COULD our children’s children know a life without horse racing?¬†Every year the rumbles of Melbourne Cup discontent grow louder.

No longer is the best-read story on news websites the hailing of the winner, but the outrage piece about those horses put down.

The Melbourne Cup, and the associated ‘sport’, seems to be an excuse for a free-for-all: a punting, piss-swilling orgy where bad behaviour is ignored, even laughed at, for one day only.

Six horses have died as a result of the Melbourne Cup since 2013.

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Zac Purton on Admire Rakti on Melbourne Cup Day in 2014. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Five years ago pre-race favourite Admire Rakti died in his stall after finishing last and Araldo shattered his leg when he tried to jump a rail as he was being led back to the mounting yard.

Red Cadeaux, the British gelding who was runner-up in the Melbourne Cup three times, died a year later.

Then it was The Cliffsofmoher’s turn – shot after breaking a right shoulder in the opening stages, limping on gallantly until it could take no more.

The sheets come out, the gun is cocked but everyone is too busy trying to get to the bar or the tote to notice.

The turf business is shadier than the B-grade celebrities haunting the gaudy marquees at Flemington.

In May last year Victorian trainer Robert Smerdon was disqualified for life by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

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The Cliffsofmoher was shot dead after breaking a shoulder in the Melbourne Cup. Picture: Getty Images

Smerdon was seen as the mastermind of a doping ring and was one of five trainers and three stable hands banned for a “long-running systematic conspiracy to try and obtain an unfair advantage in well over a 100 races over seven years”.

The fields round the nation’s race tracks may well feature the most juiced athletes this side of the Pyrenees – the ponies aren’t signed up to the WADA code.

This year the ABC’s 7.30 aired a shocking report detailing how hundreds of registered racehorses are being discarded at slaughterhouses in Australia.

But it seems the nation develops a collective amnesia every spring, especially in Victoria where the whole sordid business helps prop up the economy for four weeks.

Will we someday reach a tipping point where more people are disgusted by the Melbourne Cup than enjoy it?

I think the answer is yes, and it will be here sooner than we think.

greig.johnston@communitynews.com.au