German raider Protectionist timed his finishing burst to perfection to win the Melbourne Cup but the race was overshadowed by the death of two horses including favourite Admire Rakti, who collapsed and died after finishing last.
Araldo, who finished seventh in the $5.38 million race, was later euthanised after injuring its hind leg in a freak accident after the race.
The deaths at the “race that stops a nation” are sure to reignite the debate over the welfare of horses in the sport.
With another bumper crowd packed into Flemington Racecourse, Protectionist was boxed in for much of the gruelling 3,200 metre handicap but stormed down the final straight to win by four lengths, giving Germany its first winner in 154 runnings of the Cup.
Protectionist’s success was the third for a European horse in the last five years after Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011) and will not ease concerns among local trainers about “foreign” raids on Australia’s top silverware.
Meanwhile, Japanese-trained Admire Rakti, the 5-1 favourite and an impressive winner of the Caulfield Cup last month, had faded badly over the last few furlongs.
Carrying the top weight of 58.5kg, the horse was clearly agitated after the race and his stall was soon covered in a protective screen.
“The favourite Admire Rakti on return to the stalls after the race has collapsed and died,” Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey told reporters.
“Our vets are on hand and the horse will undergo an autopsy. We will have to await those results for the cause of the death.”
His death followed that of French mare Verema, who was put down after snapping a lower leg bone during the race last year.