A MELBOURNE Cup triumph for Ryan Moore on German 7-1 shot Protectionist was overshadowed by the deaths of two horses after Australia’s richest horse race, including the favourite Admire Rakti.
The admirable Red Cadeaux – trained by Ed Dunlop – strode to the lead in the home straight of the two-mile contest but was overhauled on the inside by five-year-old Protectionist, who went on to win by four lengths in only his tenth race. “We’ve had great success all over the world but that’s the biggest of all,” winning trainer Andreas Wohler said. “When he came round the last bend, I said he just needs to have the right gap and he found it, and he quickened so well.”
Wohler described winning jockey Moore as “a superstar,” and added: “It’s a big achievement from our team.”
Moore rode with typical tactical astuteness, holding Protectionist some way behind a strong pace set by the Roger Varian-trained My Ambivalent, and was aboard a lightly-raced and weighted colt with such evident superiority over his rivals that he blitzed four lengths clear.
With two furlongs to go, Red Cadeaux hit the front and pressed on for Gerald Mosse, while Moore was still wriggling through rivals. Just over a furlong later, though, Protectionist was past him and flying to glory in Australia’s national sporting event, while Red Cadeaux fought on to prevent Who Shot Thebarman from taking second.
“It’s a massive day for me but I had a really good horse to do the work for me,” said Moore. “We wanted to be a bit further forward, but the pace was strong the whole way. He just took the gaps and they came.”
Moore landed the Cox Plate just over a week ago, before travelling to America and back for the Breeders’ Cup, and has countless other global titles to his name. “I’d say it feels similar,” he said. “The Cox Plate is more from a purist’s point of view. They are the best horses in a weight-for-age, maybe like the King George or the Arc. This is the greatest race, like the Grand National back home, as the whole country gets taken up by it.
“I wouldn’t view any of those races differently. They are all special on the day. Good days are hard to come by, but there are plenty of bad ones. You don’t get too excited, you wait for the next disappointment.”
Wohler had been planning this for Protectionist ever since he claimed a Group 2 in Germany back at the end of June, but now the four-year-old’s part-owners Australian Bloodstock are likely to send him to domestic trainer Kris Lees with a view to the major Sydney races during March and April.
That, incredibly, could be the next port of call for Red Cadeaux, with Dunlop left both thrilled and a bit frustrated. “We can’t win it!” he said.
“I think we kicked on plenty soon enough for us, the winner was very good on the day and yet again we’ve been second, but what a horse. He’s probably going to break another record now as the greatest bridesmaid ever, but we’re always susceptible to these younger horses.”
Admire Rakti was the 4-1 favourite in the 154th Melbourne Cup after winning the Caulfield Cup last month but, after being among the front-runners in the early going, faded suddenly midway through the race and finished a distant last in the 22-horse field.
The seven-year-old Japanese stayer collapsed and died shortly after returning to the stalls. The cause of death was yet to be determined, “although the circumstances of the horse’s passing are very rare,” said Dr Brian Stewart, Racing Victoria’s head of veterinary and equine welfare.
In another post-race incident, seventh-place Araldo broke his leg on the way back to the stalls and had to be euthanised. Admire Rakti’s jockey Zac Purton said: “I knew he was in trouble when he didn’t tow me into the race around halfway from home. So I eased him down straight away. The horse’s welfare comes first. It’s very sad. He gave me a great thrill at Caulfield, and for this to happen is just not fair.”
Araldo, trained by Mike Moroney, got through the race unscathed but sustained injuries in the post-race incident that veterinary experts said were too severe to recover from. “He got spooked by a big flag after the Cup and ran away from it,” Moroney said. “It is so sad for the staff and the owners. He was such a lovely horse and he ran terrific in the Melbourne Cup. It was a freak accident. They run the Melbourne Cup for 154 years and nothing like that has happened.”
Last year’s race was also marred by a fatal injury to the Aga Khan’s first Melbourne Cup runner, Verema. The French-bred mare was believed to have snapped a cannon bone during the race..