Marmelo cools down after trackwork at Werribee. Picture: AAP
Marmelo cools down after trackwork at Werribee. Picture: AAP

Scan and live: Technology to end Cup deaths

It was not one horse death last year that prompted Racing Victoria to turn the spotlight on the welfare of Melbourne Cup runners. It was three.

Irish stayer The Cliffsofmoher suffered a fatal injury during last year's race and was euthanised in front of the Flemington grandstand.

The five-year-old broke his shoulder before reaching the first turn.

But it was also the deaths of raiders Hamada and Pendragon at the Werribee training centre in the Cup lead-up that demanded RV's attention.

Lifesaver: the new CT scanner in use at the Werribee Equine Centre.
Lifesaver: the new CT scanner in use at the Werribee Equine Centre.

The three deaths were at the pointy end of a worrying trend. Verema in 2013, Admire Rakti in 2014 and Red Cadeaux in 2015 were other international horses to die during or after running in the Cup.

One death is too many, but after six - and particularly that of The Cliffsofmoher - RV ordered a review.

The conclusions were many, but chief was that none of the fatal injuries could have been "reasonably predicted" with the technology available.

That technology is now available.

Distressing scenes when crowd favourite Red Cadeaux broke down in the 2015 race.
Distressing scenes when crowd favourite Red Cadeaux broke down in the 2015 race.

Among the measures taken by RV to address the problem was spending $1.3 million to buy Australia's first standing CT scanner.

That advanced piece of ­machinery sits front and ­centre of the latest controversy to rock the 158-year-old race.

While CT technology has been available to RV since 2007, the capacity to scan a standing horse became available only six weeks ago.

Before that, horses had to be anaesthetised (put to sleep) and scanned lying down, a timely and costly procedure.

But the new machine, one of three in the world, generates improved imaging of bone and soft tissue and provides far better information than an X-ray.

It's fast, too, allowing for more horses to be scanned.

Housed at the Werribee Equine Clinic, it's designed not only to detect injury in horses, but also to detect early potential for injury.

 

Trainer Hugh Morrison with Marmelo after he was withdrawn from this year’s race.
Trainer Hugh Morrison with Marmelo after he was withdrawn from this year’s race.

In the cases of Marmelo and Ispolini, scans revealed both.

As a result, the two English raiders were ordered to be withdrawn from the Cup on Wednesday night.

Melbourne equine expert Professor Chris Witton, who examined the scans, referred to the potential for "catastrophic" injury for both.

The Melbourne Cup could not afford another horse death, a fact RV acknowledged when it refurbished the sand track at Werribee, renovated the examination facilities and ­allowed internationals in as early as August.

 

Hugh Bowman and Marmelo finish second in last year’s big race.
Hugh Bowman and Marmelo finish second in last year’s big race.

 

These were all conclusions from the review. That was as much as RV could do until it came time to scan the horses.

Head of integrity Jamie Stier said on Thursday that RV would address any risk "without fear or favour".

With equine welfare at ­racing's core, the pass mark to get in the Cup has officially been increased. Only the connections of Marmelo don't agree that's a good thing.

russell.gould@news.com.au

 

The CliffsofMoher after breaking down in last year’s Melbourne Cup.
The CliffsofMoher after breaking down in last year’s Melbourne Cup.

 

 

 

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