Controversy and recrimination once more featured in the aftermath to the Melbourne Cup, Tuesday’s running of the famous Australian race being marred by the death of last year’s Derby winner, Anthony Van Dyck, while a record fine of A$50,000 (£27,430) was handed out to the jockey Kerrin McEvoy for a breach of the whip rules. The dismal news dominated headlines about the race on local websites and led to suggestions that the Cup was becoming a net negative for the sport in Australia.
Anthony Van Dyck is the sixth horse to die after taking part in the Melbourne Cup since 2013 and it has been widely noted that most of the casualties had been bred and trained in other countries. Fatal leg injuries were sustained by France’s Verema in 2013 and Britain’s Red Cadeaux in 2015. Cliffs Of Moher, from the same Irish stable as Anthony Van Dyck, that of Aidan O’Brien, broke a shoulder in 2018.
Japan’s Admire Rakti collapsed and died after the 2014 race. Araldo, who sustained a leg injury after that race when spooked by a flag-waving spectator, had been trained in Australia for more than a year before his death but is sometimes referred to as a British horse by local media because he was bred in Britain. Dulcify in 1979 is said to be the last Australasian-bred runner to die in the race.
A Racing Victoria spokesman said a report into Anthony Van Dyck’s death would take several weeks to complete and would include the results of a post-mortem. That was too ponderous a process for Twitter users, some of whom worried that the visiting horses do not cope well with the firm racing surface they sometimes meet in Australia.
But any argument that breeding is to blame would be a tricky one to advance in the case of Anthony Van Dyck. His mother was bred and raced in Australia, as was his half-sister.
“I didn’t get any results of any post mortem or anything yet but I believe he broke his fetlock,” said O’Brien from his Ballydoyle stable. “It was just terrible for him because he was a lovely, kind horse.
“He was very tough, straightforward and genuine. He gave everything.”
As a Derby winner who would have had a second career at stud, Anthony Van Dyck is among the most high-profile and valuable racehorses to have died in action. The winner of more than £2m in prize money, he will be remembered for a battling success at Epsom in which he held off four rivals by less than a length, and also for last month’s defeat of Stradivarius at Longchamp.
McEvoy’s enormous fine for excessive whip use featured more prominently in some local media than the loss of Anthony Van Dyck, and it came along with a riding ban for 13 racedays. It amounted to almost his entire share of the prize money due to him for riding O’Brien’s Tiger Moth into second place. Racing Victoria’s chief steward had texted jockeys before the race to warn them they faced the stiffest penalties ever imposed if they broke the rules.