Two horse deaths sees jump racing in Victoria on hold

May 8, 2009

Racing Victoria says it will announce a decision on the future of jumps racing in the state after two horses died at Warrnambool today.

The body's decision to suspend jump racing in the state, at least until Monday, has been welcomed by Victorian Premier John Brumby.

Racing Victoria Limited Chief Executive Officer Rob Hines says its board will hold a special meeting next week to look at incidents that have occurred in the jumps season to date "and consider the future of jumps racing in Victoria".

Hines has asked Racing Victoria's Jumps Review Panel to prepare a report on each of the five horse fatalities that have occurred in jumps races and trials this season.

Three jump races scheduled to be run at Moe meeting on Sunday will now be run as highweight flat races.

Hines said a decision on the future of jumps racing will be announced by next Friday.

"No further comment will be made by Racing Victoria on the matter until that time," he said.

The first casualty of the day was race favourite Hassle, who was pulled up after the second-last hurdle after his jockey Brad McLean reportedly felt one the horse's legs go. The horse was destroyed on the track.

The second casualty was top jumper Clearview Bay in the Grand Annual Steeplechase, who was put down after crashing through a jump at the 1000m mark.

Premier Brumby, in welcoming the jumps-race suspension, said the deaths of jumps horses had distressed many Victorians.

Deputy Premier and Racing Minister Rob Hulls said the recent spate of deaths horrified many Victorians.

"I have always maintained that the death of any horse is not an acceptable by-product of racing and the rate of deaths so far this season is unsustainable," Hulls said.

"It is incumbent upon the industry to show leadership to ensure the controversy surrounding jumps racing does not taint the entire racing industry.

"The Warrnambool Racing Club runs a terrific carnival and I'm sure the organisers are also distressed at these events."

There have been five horses that have died at jumps racing events in the state this year, including three at Warrnambool, one at Yarra Valley and one in a hurdle trial event at Cranbourne.

The industry was put on notice after a high rate of fatalities in 2008, which prompted Racing Victoria to commission a review by former Judge David Jones.

That review recommended improved training of jumps jockeys, trainers and horses as well as modified hurdles and better preparation of tracks.

Little more than a week ago, welfare group Animals Australia was calling for an end to jumps racing, pointing out that four horses had died in four days across Victoria and South Australia - the only two Australian states that still stage jumps races.

"The Brumby government can no longer ignore the carnage," said Glenys Oogjes, executive director of the group.

"Racing Victoria might be willing to turn a blind eye as the horses topple over jumps and are destroyed but the community is appalled. Nothing short of a ban is now acceptable," she said.

Oogjes had singled out the Warrnambool jumps track, pointing out that six horses had died in the last three seasons there.

The race which claimed Clearview Bay was over 5.5km and 33 jumps - the longest race in Australia, and the most jumps of any jumps race in the world.

Statistics show that the death rate among horses in jumps racing is 10 to 20 times that of flat racing.

"It is inevitable that some otherwise healthy horses will pay with their lives," she said at the time.