While some people are gearing up for the start of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival, and in particular the Melbourne Cup — the “race that stops a nation”, others are still reeling from the ABC’s 7:30 Report’s disturbing exposé of the horse racing industry.
The report was the culmination of an extensive investigation into the industry and aired footage showing the graphic mistreatment of ex-racehorses at Meramist Abattoir, in Caboolture Queensland.
Undercover investigations revealed that a total of about 300 racehorses went through the abattoir in just 22 days. Prize money won by the ex-racehorses that could be identified totalled almost $5 million.
According to Racing Australia's statistics, the horse racing industry breeds about 13,000 racehorses each year. These horses are treated like commodities and discarded when no longer profitable.
The Melbourne Cup is no stranger to controversy.
In 2014, race favourite Admire Rakti, collapsed in its stall and died after competing in the race. Seventh place-getter Araldo broke a leg when it kicked a fence after being spooked by the crowd and was euthanised.
In 2018, just minutes after the race had finished, The CliffsofMoher was put down right on the track after sustaining a fractured right shoulder.
Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses spokesperson Elio Cellotto says the horse racing industry is losing its social licence. In an October 17 statement, he said: "Despite repeated claims made by the racing industry that they love and care for the horses they use and less than 0.5% are being sent to slaughter, finally the evidence of large numbers of racehorses being killed for pet food and human consumption has been exposed."
There is no denying that the Melbourne Cup and other high stakes races such as The Everest are a plaything of the world's elite.
Billionaire Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum is the owner of the Godolphin stables that, worth an estimated $18 billion, is the richest stables in the world. Maktoum has invested more than a billion dollars over 20 years to breed a Melbourne Cup winner.
Other ultra-rich horse owners that have contended for the Melbourne Cup included British billionaire Dr Marwan Koukash, retailer boss Nigel Austin and property developer Lloyd Williams.
Given the money and prestige at stake in these races, it is not hard to imagine the kind of immense pressure put on trainers to push horses to the limits.
In the racing industry the horses always lose, no matter it seems, even if they win.