Changes to Melbourne Cup qualification rules will make it much more difficult for UK other foreign trained raiders to compete in the ‘race that stops the nation’. A series of new measures will be brought in to counteract what officials saw as an unacceptable rate of injuries and fatalities mainly to overseas runners.

They include:

  • The number of international horses permitted to enter the Werribee International Horse Centre for the Spring Racing Carnival will be capped at 24, down from a peak of 42 in 2018.
  • An enhanced pre-travel veterinary examination process to ensure an unprecedented level of scrutiny on horses hoping to travel with compulsory diagnostic imaging and examinations carried out.
  • All international horses wishing to enter WIHC must undergo full body scintigraphy and MRI at the expense of their connections two to six weeks prior to entering pre-export quarantine.
  • International horses that travel to Australia via the WIHC will be permitted to have a maximum of one start only in Australia prior to contesting the Melbourne Cup.
  • All horses, international and Australian must undergo a CT scan of their distal limbs before they are permitted to compete in the Melbourne Cup.

Neil Wilson of the Victoria Racing Club has been quoted ‘We have said consistently that we want to see Australia’s greatest race become its safest. While today’s announcement will see new requirements for this year’s Melbourne Cup, we are committed to a continuous review and improvement approach. Advances in information, technology, science and research will be considered by the industry on an ongoing basis to ensure we are taking advantage of every opportunity to further improve the safety of our sport. Everyone at the VRC feels a deep responsibility to provide for the safety of every participant competing on our racecourse. We want every horse and every jockey to come home safely.’

Brian Kruger of Racing Victoria is quoted as saying, ‘We have released a new global safety benchmark for horses competing in the Spring Racing Carnival with a primary goal of delivering a safer Melbourne Cup, one that all Australians can continue to enjoy and be proud of. There will be a reduction in the number of international horses that travel to Melbourne with unprecedented veterinary screening and oversight to be delivered, building upon a series of enhancements made in 2019. There will be improvements to the Werribee International Horse Centre to aid horse welfare and veterinary screening, whilst all horses, international and local, will need to pass rigorous examinations to take their place in the Melbourne Cup. We know some of these initiatives will be onerous on connections, but we make no apology for making the safety of horses our priority. Our sole focus is on ensuring that horses and riders compete safely, and we are committed to delivering these important enhancements in 2021 and beyond’.

Top UK Trainer Charlie Fellowes has enjoyed competing in the Melbourne Cup with Prince Of Arran, hitting the goal posts placing in the race three times. He fears that the new rules will make it very difficult to continue targeting the racing in the future. 

He told RacingTV ‘I completely understand that changes had to be made. I get that this wonderful race is under pressure from animal welfare groups, which I have seen at first hand on my trips. Yes, it is a minority, but something had to be done. For that, I feel sorry for Racing Victoria and the organisers because they’ve been put between a rock and a hard place. However, I feel they have been brutally unlucky and I worry that the measures outlined in the report that European-trained horses are going to have to pass are basically impossible. There are a few parts in the report that actually don’t make sense, and I feel incredibly sad that it will now be nigh on impossible to take a horse down there – and I have loved every minute of my trips to Australia.

He is concerned that it could have a knock-on effect on the number of horses leaving the UK to race in Australia permanently. He said ‘I think it is potentially disastrous for European trainers, because any horse deemed good enough to run in the Melbourne Cup will now be realistically moved to Australia to race where they will not have to go through the same veterinary checks that they will if the same horse is with a European trainer. So, it will result in us losing more horses. John Gosden’s comments recently of Britain turning into a nursery for other racing jurisdictions rings even truer this morning and I think it is a sad day. It really is the most wonderful race, and it is incredibly sad what has happened. I believe there are other changes which could have been made that haven’t, that wouldn’t have restricted Europeans going there and would have helped prevent further injuries from happening. Look at Royal Ascot this year without the Australian sprinters. When they come, they add so much to the meeting, It is very sad that it will not be happening to the Melbourne Cup.

Simon Nott

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