The Sydney Cup was declared a no-race after a sickening mid-race fall caused the Group One event to descend into “absolute carnage”.
That was the description of Channel 7 host Jason Richardson who summed up the thoughts of horrified viewers live on-air as race officials moved to euthanise champion horse Almoonqith on-track after it broke its leg shortly after the race began.
Almoonqith’s collapse triggered a series of chaotic events.
Almoonqith jockey James Doyle was visibly distressed as he limped across the track aided by fellow jockey Blake Shinn.Shinn was thrown from his horse, Who Shot Thebarman, during the fracas.
The incident occurred on the first lap of the 3200 metre race, leaving the unhorsed jockeys, a motionless Almoonqith and a rampaging Who Shot Thebarman as on-course obstacles.
Officials declared a no-race and attempted to alert the remaining jockeys, however several continued to contest the race at full pace, unaware of the cancellation.
Race caller Darren Flindell noted at least one near-collision before the remaining horses passed the finishing post.
“Some of these racers are being pulled up, I think we’ve got a ‘no race’ here folks. The Sydney Cup has been called off mid-race,” he said.
“The rival horses have caused disarray in the field and we’ve got the broken-down horse out of the straight.”
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) April 8, 2017
Veteran Channel 7 commentator Bruce McAvaney noted the cancellation was “unprecedented” in the event’s 155-year history.
It came on a day when thousands were in attendance at Royal Randwick Racecourse and many more watched on free-to-air television as champion mare Winx claimed her 17th straight victory in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which preceded the Sydney Cup.
Following the Cup debacle, Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel confirmed the race had been called off due to safety concerns with Almoonqith lying motionless on the track while Who Shot Thebarman continued to run.
“We declared the Sydney Cup a no-race on the basis of safety,” he said.
“Unfortunately several of those riders failed to hear the call to abandon or stop the race.
“The club is looking to see if the race can be rescheduled in the next few weeks.”
Visiting horses Penglai Pavilion and Polarisation, who raced the entire 3200-metre journey, travelled to Australia for the sole purpose of contesting the Cup.
Polarisation was the first of the remaining competitors to complete the trip. Speaking after the race, the horse’s jockey Corey Brown was furious.
“There was no sign – and that was a farce!” he said, according to a Fairfax report.
“One’s broken down and it was a furlong after the winning post. If it was at the 100 metre mark I could understand.”
Some jockeys joined Brown in condemning the stewards’ decision to cancel the race. Others said they were confused, as there was no clear signal to alert riders of the decision.
— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) April 8, 2017
Almoonqith’s death was the latest in a series of tragedies in prestigious long-distance racing events.
Beloved three-time Melbourne Cup runner up Red Cadeaux died soon after breaking down during the 2016 Melbourne Cup, also a 3200-metre race.
Japanese thoroughbred and Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti, the favourite in the 2014 Melbourne Cup, was euthanised after collapsing during that year’s race.
Both deaths triggered outrage from animal-rights campaigners and calls for horse racing to be banned.
Almoonqith won almost $1 million in prizemoney during his career, winning a Geelong Cup and a Sandown Cup.