I HAD the most fantastic Melbourne Cup day yesterday… Until I didn’t.
My celebration of ‘the race that stopped a nation’ involved 20 girlfriends getting together, dressed to the nines, to eat, drink and be merry while we fundraised for a couple of families in distress. We collected over $800 to split between a little boy who needs a heart transplant, and another family who recently lost their son. It was, we thought, a wonderful way to make the Cup ‘meaningful’.
In all honestly, the actual race was a very small part of our day. We switched the TV on for 15 minutes to watch the horses run and then flicked it off immediately afterwards so we could turn the music back up.
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So we didn’t see the news right after the race had ended.
We didn’t know a horse had died.
We continued having a lovely afternoon and when all the guests had gone and my husband returned home, he said, “Well, wasn’t that a tragic Cup?”
My heart sank. “What happened?” I asked. He told me the Cup favourite, the majestic Admire Ratki, had died of a suspected heart attack. Another horse, Araldo, was in a bad way; that horse, which was spooked by a child in the crowd and kicked out, fracturing its cannon bone, also died last night.
I felt a little bit sick. I felt oddly complicit in these horses’ deaths. After all, we had joined in and celebrated an event that resulted in two horses being dead.
But why do we love horse racing so much anyway? These two beautiful horses died after competing in a race that we collectively celebrate – but really, what are we celebrating?
I’ve never given it too much thought before. My interest and involvement in horse racing begins and ends on the first Tuesday of every November.
Now, like most Australians, I’m giving it some thought. Reports have flooded the news since yesterday’s race, saying that a horse dies in a race every three days. More than 125 horses have died in the last 12 months.
And that’s not to mention the fact that tens of millions of dollars are waged in bets on the Melbourne Cup – what an incredible waste of cash.
I don’t know what the answers are. I don’t know how it’s possible to make the racing industry safer for the horses that, let’s be honest, it exploits (no matter how well they are looked after, some of them simply don’t want to be there). After Araldo’s completely avoidable death, I’m thinking more space between the horses and the crowds at a minimum?
What I do know is that my social media feed is blowing up with people who no longer want to participate in the Melbourne Cup, or racing in general.
It makes me wonder whether, maybe, this terrible tragedy has happened for a reason – to shine a light on ‘the race that stops a nation’ so that we know what’s really going on behind the scenes?
Like I said, I don’t have all the answers. But I, like most Australians, am giving it some thought.
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