Home Horse racing Melbourne Cup Vows to Protect its Horses

Melbourne Cup Vows to Protect its Horses


One of the biggest criticisms thrown the way of any horse racing event is the welfare and protection of the horses taking part. This has most certainly been the case, especially in the wake of Anthony Van Dyck’s fatal injury. Since this occurrence, there have been a number of recommendations made regarding Melbourne Cup 2021. In particular, the international horses are set to undergo a lot more stringent regulations.

Now, there will be fewer international horses invited to participate in the Victorian Spring Carnival. However, despite this, the Melbourne Cup will still maintain its current capacity, so it will not directly affect the structure of the race.

In total, there were 44 recommendations made in order to improve the safety of the horses, and out of these, there will be 41 implemented.

Improving the Racing Conditions

The biggest change that they are making is improving the overall racing conditions of the horses. Firstly, they are looking to reduce the number of Melbourne Cup runners down to twenty. They will also look to have a track rating of Good 4 or softer for the Melbourne Cup to go ahead.

In addition to this, Werribee is expected to still be used as a quarantine facility for overseas and international horses in which there will be even more extensive veterinary checks – including CT scans if possible. Moreover, there will only be a maximum of 24 overseas horses based at the Werribee quarantine facility throughout the festival. These horses will only be allowed to start one other race before competing in the Melbourne Cup. This is currently the most stringent of all the new measures implemented.

 A Duty of Care

Because Racing Victoria needs to ensure that the conditions are safe for a horse to race, there are many other suggestions that have been implemented pre Melbourne Cup 2021. These include:

  • If a horse has previously had a major fracture or any other orthopaedic surgery, then it will automatically be excluded from Werribee.
  • All international horses will now have to undergo pre-travel veterinary inspections that will be performed under strict race day conditions. A horse cannot be in the process of recovering – it needs to be in a fit state to race on the day it leaves its country.
  • Every international horse will be required to undergo full-body scans – with CT scans done as well where possible. These scans will be done at the expense of connections.
  • There will also be additional Racing Victoria vet checks that will be carried out on international horses within one week of their arrival in Australia.
  • Racing Victoria veterinary staff will be required to oversee and provide any clinical services that are required at Werribee.
  • In order to continuously monitor a horse’s health, both jockeys and trackwork riders will be required to provide a report on the horse’s exercises and gait every morning. This report will be looked over by an independent trackwork supervisor.
  • Racing Victoria will need to build a new horse examination area at the Werribee quarantine facility.
  • All horses – local and international – will be required to undergo a CT scan of all their limbs before the start of every race. These scans will be looked over by a panel of Racing Victoria experts.

It has been acknowledged that Racing Victoria  – and the racing industry in general, has a duty of care towards the horses that run in each of their races, whether they are local or international. Unfortunately, sometimes there are incidents that occur, like that of Anthony Van Dyck, that highlight the weaknesses in the system as it is. This has clearly indicated that there is still much more that needs to be done in order to protect horses from getting serious or even fatal injuries whilst racing. That is why they are implementing so many measures to protect all horses, especially the international racers.

Setting the Standard

After looking at current standards, Racing Victoria has worked closely alongside the VRC  to review the number and causes of injuries to international horses. This resulted in a conclusion that these injuries occurred for a number of reasons, and so a number of changes needed to be made to rectify the situation and reduce the horses’ risk of injury.

As a result, they have now released a global safety benchmark aimed at horses taking part in the Spring Racing Carnival. These should provide a much safer Melbourne Cup  – and one that will continue to represent the Australian racing community in its best light.

They are under no illusions that these new measures may be onerous for some and may not please everyone. The fact that there will be fewer international horses will upset some trainers and the continued veterinary checks will no doubt be more costly. However, they make no apology for this because they are now placing the health and wellbeing of the horses above all other factors, as should be the case. This will now be their sole priority. It is vital that both horses and riders can race in the safest possible environment.

These new initiatives are about to set a new global standard for the safety of horse and jockey – with the implementation of some of the strictest and most stringent pre-travel and pre-race vet screening processes that the international horse racing world has ever seen.

Making the Greatest Race The Safest Race

No longer is it good enough to be one of the greatest races in the world, the Melbourne Cup now wants to be the safest race in the world. Although currently these restrictions and measures have been put into place for the 2021 Melbourne Cup, they have confirmed that this is just the start – and they will continue to look for ways to keep improving the race for everyone involved. As information, technology, science and research continue to advance, they will keep looking for ways to take advantage of each opportunity presented to them to make the greatest race in Australia, the safest – not just in Australia, but across the globe.


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