Racing Victoria to probe link between internationals and Cup deaths
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Racing Victoria to probe link between internationals and Cup deaths

Racing Victoria's integrity chief Jamie Stier is adamant visiting European trainers have praised the Werribee quarantine facility after pledging to investigate whether there's a tangible link between internationals and fatalities in the Melbourne Cup.

The results of a post-mortem into the death of The Cliffsofmoher won't be known for several weeks after the Irish-based horse became the fifth to die a from Melbourne Cup-related incident in the last six years.

Fractured shoulder: Jockey Ryan Moore is assisted by a race steward after The CliffsofMoher was injured during the Melbourne Cup. He was later euthanised.

Fractured shoulder: Jockey Ryan Moore is assisted by a race steward after The CliffsofMoher was injured during the Melbourne Cup. He was later euthanised. Credit:AAP

Four of those have been Europeans stationed at Werribee, with Araldo the exception when he got his leg caught in a fence in a freak accident while returning to scale after the 2014 race. He had taken fright at a flag-waving fan.

Nick Williams, the son of The Cliffsofmoher's owner Lloyd Williams, said on Wednesday his family were "not scared" to withdraw horses from races "no matter how big or small" if they had an issue, stressing there was nothing wrong with the five-year-old before his "terrible accident".

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The Cliffsofmoher's trainer Aidan O'Brien even wrote to Racing Victoria's integrity department before the spring carnival to alert them his horse was a serial sweater, which was in line with how he paraded on Tuesday.

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He broke down near the winning post the first time and was euthanised after being found to have fractured a shoulder.

It comes after an unusually high attrition rate of European horses at Werribee this year. Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Charlie Appleby had Hamada put down and Emotionless ruled out of the spring carnival even before Cross Counter broke Godolphin's duck in Australia's great race.

Withhold bled in the Geelong Cup and fellow Europeans Duretto and Red Verdon were ruled out with injury in the week leading up to the Melbourne Cup.

Asked about the correlation between deaths in the Melbourne Cup and the internationals, Stier told SEN on Wednesday: "That’s something we’ll look at in our wash-up. It’s an interesting point of course and it’s something we’re very conscious of.

"There’s no indication any of these horses had issues prior to their arrival that we were aware of that would have prevented them from travelling.

The visiting trainers I’ve spoken to were highly complimentary of the facilities.

Jamie Stier

"The one thing about Werribee this year is we’ve had a significant increase in the number of horses that were residents there. I’m not saying that’s the sole cause [of more injuries], but the more horses, the greater exposure you have to horses potentially having issues.

"We will look at things and the visiting trainers I’ve spoken to were highly complimentary of the facilities and also the surface they were presented with."

English trainer Charlie Fellowes, who prepared third-placegetter A Prince Of Arran, said on Wednesday: "It can’t be ignored that there has been a lot of injuries to European horses in the build-up, more than usual."

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But Racing Victoria officials insist there was no sign of lameness in The Cliffsofmoher prior to the Melbourne Cup with the horse vetted before leaving for Australia, upon arrival and in the 24 hours before the race. He was also monitored daily by stable staff and industry vets.

Racing Victoria will collect treatment records and an autopsy report before releasing their findings into The Cliffsofmoher's death.

"We have one of the best fatality rates in the world at 0.05 per cent," Stier said. "Regardless of that, we’re continuing to drive towards zero per cent. There was no evidence to suggest anything was amiss with [The Cliffsofmoher before the Melbourne Cup].

"I’m confident that we have the right resources in place to address the risks that confront us. I think one thing that might be lost on several people out there is the manner in which that The Cliffsofmoher incident was dealt with."