Heart failure arising from an irregular heartbeat was behind the death of Melbourne Cup runner Admire Rakti, the official findings of an investigation have revealed.
Admire Rakti collapsed and died in his stall shortly after the running of the 3200m race at Flemington on November 4. He had been racing near the lead with 400 metres to go, but faded to the rear of the field.
Racing Victoria today released the official findings of a stewards’ and veterinary investigation into the collapse.
The body of Admire Rakti was taken to the University of Melbourne for a post mortem examination, and samples collected from the horse both before and after his death were tested by Racing Analytical Services Limited and other expert laboratories in Australia.
Based on the expert reports obtained during the investigation, Racing Victoria says the death resulted from acute cardiac failure (heart failure) as a result of a cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) that can be attributed to natural causes.
No substances prohibited under the Rules of Racing, nor any substance that might have contributed to the horse’s death, were detected in any samples.
The post-mortem examination identified uncommon changes in the horse’s kidney which, following comprehensive testing and expert analysis, can be attributed to natural causes. Those changes could possibly have been the result of a lack of oxygen prior to death, exposure to toxins prior to death or very rapid onset of autolysis (natural decomposition) just after the time of death.
Racing Victoria subsequently sought specialist analytical testing to eliminate the presence of substances toxic to the kidney in the samples, and obtained further expert pathological opinions on the nature and possible causes of the death. These further inquiries extended the time period of the investigation.
The comprehensive testing of tissues and body fluids taken from the horse showed no evidence of any substance toxic to the kidneys.
The racing body also obtained opinions from several world-leading pathology experts, including specialist kidney pathologist, Dr Rachel Cianciolo, who is co-director of the International Veterinary Renal Pathology Service at Ohio State University in the United States.
Cianciolo’s definitive opinion was that the kidney changes were due to rapid autolysis (natural decomposition). Although very uncommon, based on the analytical testing and expert opinions obtained, the changes seen in Admire Rakti’s kidney could be attributed to natural causes.
During the investigation, stewards reviewed Admire Rakti’s veterinary and treatment records, finding nothing that would give rise to any issue with the horse, nor constitute a breach of the Rules of Racing.
They noted that all runners in the race were under fulltime security surveillance from 3pm on November 3 and nothing untoward was reported regarding the management and preparation of Admire Rakti in the 24 hours before the race.
They said the horse’s behaviour on the day of the race, in particular before the start, when attendants were attempting to load him into the barriers, was consistent with the horse’s pattern of behaviour at previous race starts in Japan and Australia.
A veterinary examination of Admire Rakti on the morning of the race by Racing Victoria’s head of equine welfare and veterinary services, Dr Brian Stewart, determined that the horse was fully fit and suitable to take his place in the race.
“This death has been categorised as a sudden death which is thankfully very uncommon in Victorian thoroughbred racing, with the recorded incidence 0.007 percent of an average 43,500 starts each season,” Stewart said.
Racing Victoria’s chairman of stewards, Terry Bailey, said: “We are satisfied that the horse was presented in a fit state free of any substances that could have contributed to its death and unfortunately it has suffered a rare sudden death due to heart failure.
“In tabling these results we once again extend our condolences to the connections of Admire Rakti, who are still naturally devastated at the horse’s passing in such tragic circumstances.”