Tears spring to my eyes more readily these days.
So bear that in mind when I tell you of the small saline uprising I had when reading of the passing of Red Cadeaux, everyone’s favourite runner-up.
Only a couple of Tuesdays ago I was cobbling together his obituary after he broke down in the Melbourne Cup, but was happy to stay late and rewrite a better ending.
Alas, vets were unable to save the 10-year-old, who was euthanised on Saturday after complications arose due to a loss of blood flow to the foot of his injured left foreleg.
Red was a brave but desperately unlucky beast, a horse that lost a Melbourne Cup by two pixels to Dunaden in 2011.
He was second twice more, in 2013 and 2014, and despite, or perhaps because of, this lack of success, he occupied a special place in people’s hearts.
This year, within sight of the finish and what should have been a long, languid retirement, he injured a fetlock in the Flemington home straight.
There were fears he’d have to be put down right there on the track, but he made it to Werribee where vets worked for two-and-a-half weeks to save him.
Everyone loves a trier, and by God did this animal try.
Australia’s fondness for Red Cadeaux is similar to the affection in which the British public held heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno.
Bruno, a serial knockout victim, was about as chinny a fighter as you’d find – a man who turned to stone when hit just right.
Yet this vulnerability, his humanity, made him loved like no other.
Red Cadeaux’s noble failure made him a most human equine, and in the end his demise was only humane.
Equine vet Stephen Silk said the staff at the University of Melbourne Equine Centre at Werribee had only one option.
“It’s very sad, for a true champion like him,” Dr Silk told The New Daily.
“A horse’s lower leg has specialised and specific blood supply which is vital for sustaining the functioning of the bones and tissues of the limb.
“When a horse suffers traumatic injury this often damages the blood supply.
“In that situation the vet only has one option, and that’s to humanely euthanise the horse so that the animal is in no pain and it doesn’t suffer.”
Red Cadeaux’s last win came in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase in 2012. He had only seven wins from 54 starts, but was always good for a place.
He won more than $8 million in prize money, making him the most successful British horse – in monetary terms – ever.
In the last race he completed he was third in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes in August, before he broke down at Flemington on November 3.
“We’ve all seen champions around the world and there will be many better horses than him, but for the horse to do what he’s just done is mind-boggling,” trainer Ed Dunlop said after his Melbourne Cup second place in 2014.
“I hope they love him for a long time.”
How could they not? He’s immortal now.
The name Red Cadeaux, three-time bridesmaid, will be remembered long after those of his ‘superiors’ – Dunaden, Fiorente and Protectionist – have faded from the mind.