No Winners In Post-Cup Mud-slinging

The past 24 hours have been tough for the racing industry and lovers of animals in equal measure.

Thoroughbred racing’s day of days was undoubtedly marred by the freak deaths of two outstanding and well-loved horses; the seven year old Japanese entire Admire Rakti, and the Mike Moroney trained seven year old entire from the Northern hemisphere, Araldo.

I’ve intentionally used the phrase ‘freak deaths’ because simply, that’s what they were. As Moroney said on RSN’s ‘Racing Ahead Program’ with Shane Anderson;  “We’ve had 154 Melbourne Cups and that’s the first time something like [the incident that led to Araldo’s being euthanised] has happened.”

Sections of the community who oppose thoroughbred racing wasted no time though, in using the tragic deaths of these two beautiful horses to theive oxygen far more deserved for others at the time. Regular racegoers and punters know that yesterday’s events at Flemington were anything BUT common-place. As a fan of racing and a bona-fide animal lover – as hard as that concept is for some ultra-dogmatic animal protectionists to come to grips with – no sooner had TVN’s Brent Zerafa broken the news about the passing of Admire Rakti that for me, the day was effectively over. I genuinely didn’t care about the remainder of the card and the following three races might as well have been abandoned.

The passing of Admire Rakti was sudden, brutal and shocking and as emotional as I was at the time, the news that Araldo was on his way to Werribee with a suspected fracture of the hind pastern became too much. It was my emotional one-two knockout blow I didn’t need.

That was when I made the fundamental error to look upon my Twitter timeline.

Those who use Twitter will know that social media is a bloodsport. It is – at times – anything but social, and is a veritible cowards castle of anonymity allowing people to say things to others which would get you sat on your arse double-time if you dared say it to a person’s face. I’m no angel in this regard and at times yesterday my own behaviour fell well-short of acceptable and I’m pretty disappointed in myself.

I fully understand that a section of the community opposes the thoroughbred racing industry, but the use of Admire Rakti and Araldo’s passing to score cheap points at a truly emotional time typifies how little animal activists understand the depth to which fans of racing love its most important participants – the horse.

The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses claims to seek constructive dialogue with people of influence in racing in order to bring about sustainable change and instil best-practice benchmarks with regards to breeding in order to eradicate the tragedy of wastage – among a range of aims on its wish-list.

However between a flurry of insensitive “we told you so…” tweets and what appeared to be barely disguised joy (from what is hopefully the radical fringes of the issue) that two horses died on the racing industry’s biggest day, there’s an indisputable disconnect between the supposed aims of the CPR and their methods for raising awareness around their campaign.

The disconnect between inflammatory images of dead horses plastered on billboards leading into spring carnival and the ‘but we just want to talk with you guys’ was highlighted starkly yesterday after the running of the Melbourne Cup. I accept that there’s two sides to every argument and as with every contestable issue, there are fanatical ideologues on both sides of the fence – no pun intended – but the form of some anti-racing campaigners jumping in to further their cause while emotions were running high for a lot of racing fans after the news of Admire Rakti’s death broke was, simply, weak as piss.

There’s unscrupulous operators in racing that shouldn’t be licensed and that the industry would love to see the back of  – there’s no doubt about that. However you catch bees with honey, not with outdated shock tactics, fanaticism and antagonism. I’m far from the most passionate racing fan going around, but if my reaction yesterday was any indication, then I’d say the CPR might need to rethink its definition of ‘constructive dialogue’.




DISCLAIMER: Steve Baker is a former employee of 3UZ Pty Ltd – (RSN) which is part-owned by Racing Victoria and other racing bodies.




About Steve Baker

Weapons-grade Grump. Quixotic. Jack of all Trades and Master of None. Ex-power forward for Melbourne Superules FC. Quoter of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm at inappropriate moments. Gun-for-hire, sleep enthusiast, contrarian. Meshuggener. Nebbish. Kibitzer. The dude abides.


  1. I don’t have much time for the CPR’s arguments. Horse racing and all its attendant businesses are just another part of the endless bread and circuses/south sea bubbles with which men (rich and poor) have distracted and amused themselves since time immemorial.
    Overpriced horse flesh in a bubble market is just another way in which the spoils of trickle down economics eventually trickle down to the strapper, bush jockey and TAB employee.
    But give me a break with all this ‘love of the horse’ anthropomorphic nonsense. Having spent far too much of 30 years in TAB’s there wouldn’t be more than 2% of my fellow travellers that knew or cared about the ‘equine athlete’.
    “Shoot the bastard” was the most common refrain after the favourite ran last from the assembled adrenaline junkies and dollar chasers in the TAB.
    Horse racing is a marketing business masquerading as a sport these days – like a lot of other former ‘sports’ (hello cricket).
    Its a hazy line at any time, but racing has ‘jumped the shark’.
    More human victims of one sort or another than equine.

  2. I have loved my punting life. It invited me into the life of the horse, and people who love the horse. I came to appreciate the depth of affection people have for their horses.

  3. Steve,
    TV gives a totally different perspective – on course we knew nothing of the so-called dramas until some drunk twit punters mentioned the fav’s demise just before the last race. Unfortunate. Happens.

  4. Steve,
    For what it’s worth,
    I didn’t think your tweets yesterday were all that bad…
    Don’t beat yourself up over them.

  5. Strange though it may seem, I can agree with both Peter B and JTH on this. Like any enterprise that’s parasite to vice, the practicalities of gaming may be sordid but that doesn’t mean a punter can’t make an art of it.

    As to the Cup, I’m sickened by the whole affair. Not by the untimely passing of two dumb creatures who were cared for all their short lives. Rather, by the puerile media who treat their Twitter feed as if anything trending must have merit. I don’t know exactly when producing a news story became simply a matter of aggregating the ill-informed views of garrulous morons, but that development is the only reason we are even having such a pathetic and futile discussion as to countenance the banning or boycotting horse racing.

  6. cowshedend says

    Steve, I deliberately avoided perusing twitter as soon as I found out about the tragic demise of Admire Ratki.
    The schadenfreude expressed by those who wish to have horse racing banned sickens me.
    The distressing scenes in the stalls , and the inconsolable grief of the Japanese strapper at Werribee post race will stay with me always.

  7. Agree with you Steve.

  8. Callum O'Connor says

    I fully back those who want to ban jumps racing because it is obviously dangerous. However Tuesday’s tragedies were during a race in which horses simply run around a field as they have always done. Freak accidents nothing more.

  9. Compared to the personal abuse flying around twitter on Tuesday evening, Steve, there was little offence to be taken from your tweets. What sent me flying off the handle were some twits at work that dealt with Admire Rakti’s death by saying at least they got their money back in the sweep for finishing last. I was objecting to the moronic celebrations that continued in the face of something so unfortunate. To then be faced on twitter with being accused of not having compassion for the jockeys that died earlier in the year was somewhat galling.

    The one question I’d love to see a reasoned (or any) debate on is what is an appropriate level of horse deaths in the industry? I’m not convinced it’s reasonable to characterise the outcome on Tuesday as unusual or freakish (certainly the specific events were) when I think the stat is something like 130 horses die at Australian racetracks each year.

  10. The number of horses that die on racetracks is insignificant. The number that never get to a racetrack and end up as cray bait/dog food because they cannot run out of sight/are unsound and just chew up training costs is the real issue. That is why jumps racing is important – it gives the slow but stout plodder an option other than fish food.
    We get emotional about the tip of the iceberg, and ignore the mountain beneath the surface.
    They shoot (slow) horses, don’t they?

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