The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) are saddened by the death of CliffsofMoher during the racing of the 2018 Lexus Melbourne Cup. CliffsofMoher suffered a catastrophic injury whilst racing, causing the colt’s shoulder to shatter and the nature of this type of fracture is inoperable.
With the welfare of the horse in mind he was humanly euthanised, so he did not endure further pain or suffering for what was an inoperable injury.
Veterinarians are a key presence at all horse racing events, ensuring that the health and welfare of the animal is at the forefront. They conduct horse inspections whilst they are parading, in the mounting yard and at the starting barrier to ensure that the horse is fit to race.
If there is any doubt as to the horse’s ability to race, the on-course veterinarian will recommend the horse is withdrawn from the race, without any further question.
The type of injury sustained by CliffsofMoher is very uncommon, and it should be noted that horse accidents occur not only in racing but also in their natural environment. An injury could occur whilst a horse is running in a paddock, in a farm or even as the result of the horse being frightened during a storm.
Their natural response is to run, often at high speeds and whilst in ‘flight’ mode they can injure themselves, regardless of their surrounding environment – whether it be on a farm or a racecourse.
The safety and welfare of horses is paramount and equine veterinarians will always put this at the forefront when treating and assessing an injured horse.
Update 4 January 2019: Racing Victoria releases Stewards Report - The Cliffsofmoher Fatality Review