The Melbourne Cup carnival is yet to begin, but already there has been drama with officials ordering the withdrawal of two leading international chances for the big race, following concerns over their fitness based on standing CT scan results.
The two horses out of the running for next Tuesday’s $7.3 million Melbourne Cup are English horse Marmelo and Godolphin’s entry Ispolini, but the connections of at least one of the entries has reacted angrily to the decision and is not ruling out legal action.
The announcements came on Wednesday night after vets’ reports were received on both horses stating that they would not be fit to run if the race was held on the day of final acceptances (this Saturday), which is one of the conditions of entry.
Racing Victoria said both horses were referred to the University of Melbourne’s Equine Clinic for standing CT scans on the weekend after showing signs of soreness.
The results indicated that Marmelo had incomplete fractures of the near-fore cannon bone and off-hind cannon bone, while Ispolini had “pre-fracture pathology in the horse’s right front cannon bone”, according to Racing Victoria.
Stewards made their decision “to ensure the wellbeing and safety” of both horses.
Racing Victoria upgraded their monitoring of Cup horses following the death of Godolphin’s Hamada in a trackwork accident in 2018, and the Aidan O’Brien horse TheCliffsofmoher, who broke down during last year’s race and was euthanased on the track.
Also, the ABC’s recent investigation into slaughter of ex-racehorses has reportedly prompted officials to be extra vigilant for horse welfare issues during this year’s carnival.
Marmelo, which came a close second to Cross Counter in last year’s race and ninth in 2017, had been seen as a leading chance to win the Cup at the third time of asking.
His trainer, Hughie Morrison, reacted with anger and frustration to the news of his horse’s removal from the field, saying his stable’s English-based CT scan expert Ian Wright did not agree with the findings of incomplete fractures.
“We were told the horses would be reviewed in England by Racing Victoria vets, he was trotted up, they approved him to come here.
“He [Marmelo] is moving exactly the same here as he was back home, and to be honest, if they felt there was any concern … they should have ordered a CT scan at Newmarket [in England] before he even got on the airplane.”
Morrison expressed frustration at the process, involving Racing Victoria vet Grace Forbes and head of integrity Jamie Stier.
“It’s quite frightening, that two people [Forbes and Stier] can make a decision about a horse, and everybody confirms it … we weren’t even allowed to look at her report, prior to their meeting to discuss it,” he said.
“It was a closed-door [meeting], [they said] we’re getting on with it.