The continuing scandal surrounding the slaughter of former racehorses threatened to overshadow two of the biggest events on the Australian racing calendar Saturday.
In Sydney, Yes Yes Yes won The Everest, the richest turf race in the world, for trainer Chris Waller.
A Japanese horse took out the $5 million Caulfield Cup for the second time in six years at Melbourne’s Caufield Cup, with Mer De Glace winning.
But members of the public gathered for protests against the troubled sport at both races.
On Thursday night, the ABC’s 7.30 program used hidden video footage to show that hundreds, possibly thousands, of healthy Australian racehorses are sent to slaughterhouses each year.
Graphic footage shown from inside one of the abattoirs showed former racehorses being kicked, dragged and shocked on their way to their deaths
Veteran broadcaster Bruce McAvaney told viewers it was a big day for racing in Sydney and Melbourne.
“But we do arrive at Caulfield and Randwick today at a critical time for the entire racing industry,” he said.
“Thursday night’s ABC expose of what happens to some retired racehorses calls for immediate action.
“It was horrifying to watch — as a small-time owner it made me feel ashamed.
“And not to have known is not good enough.
This is a critical time for the racing industry.
Bruce McAvaney’s statement on the treatment of retired race horses. pic.twitter.com/Sj5r2brsCC
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) October 19, 2019
An emotional McAvaney said it the issue would require a unified approach across all levels of the racing industry.
“The nurturing of our racehorses in retirement is just as important as the care and training given to a yearling or a four year-old champion,” he said.
“It’s a complex issue that must be addressed as a priority.”
The three-year-old colt Yes Yes Yes, ridden by Glen Boss and trained by Waller – best known for his training association with superstar mare Winx – came through in the final 200m to take the lead and win the $14-million The Everest from Santa Ana Lane and Trekking.
At Melbourne’s Caufield Cup, Mer De Glace – trained by Hisashi Shimizu and ridden by Damian Lane – who passed the Waller-trained Finche with 300m to go in the straight.
Vocal crowds registered their protests at both racecourses.
In Melbourne, a group of protesters gathered at the front gate of the Caulfield Racecourse to take racegoers to task about the abattoir scandal.
One protester, who lives in Caulfield, told the ABC he could not stand by while horses were killed “with impunity” if they were too slow.
“I have a rescued greyhound. It’s the same thing in all racing industries where they depend on animals,” he said.
“I think it’s been a shock to people who work in the industry. I know people who work in the gambling industry and they’re completely shocked.
“They have to question how they feel about it and why they keep supporting it, just to look glamorous. It’s not glamorous.”