SYDNEY, Australia â€” One of Australia’s biggest horse races â€” the Sydney Cup â€” was abandoned at the halfway point on Saturday in dramatic and controversial scenes after two horses threw their riders and one of the horses died on the track.
The 3,200-meter (2-mile) Group 1 event, worth 2 million Australian dollars ($1.5 million), attracted a field of 14 Australian and international gallopers, and shaped as one of the highlights of the autumn racing season at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse.
But trouble occurred soon after the field passed the winning post the first time in the lap-and-a-half race when Almoonqith â€” a former Europe and Dubai-based stallion raced by the emirate’s deputy ruler Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum â€” broke down.
Not only was the seven-year-old’s English jockey James Doyle thrown from the saddle, the incident also caused rival horse Who Shotthebarman to unseat its jockey, Blake Shinn.
With Almoonqith lying on the track and Doyle having trouble moving away due to an injured knee, race officials decided to call a “no-race” with 1,600 metres left. But with no warning sirens in operation, it was left to mounted track officials to call out to jockeys that the race had been abandoned.
Only about half of the remaining riders heard the call and pulled up their horses, however, with the other half pushing on in the belief the race was still valid.
English visitor, the Godolphin-owned Polarisation, was first across the line, with his rider Corey Brown celebrating what he believed was a big win for the horse’s connections.
He and the other finishing riders then steered their mounts around Almoonqith, who later had to be euthanized.
Brown was later fuming over the decision to abandon the race, saying jockeys could easily have avoided the stricken horse after the finish of the race.
“One’s broken down and it was a furlong (200 metres) after the winning post. If it was at the 100-meter mark (before the post) I could understand,” said Brown, who also called the lack of a warning siren “farcical.”
Race officials, who were expected to reschedule the event, defended their decision. Chief steward Marc van Gestel said officials had to “err on the side of caution,” as it was not immediately clear whether Almoonqith might still get up and cause havoc with the remaining field.
Meanwhile, five-year-old Australian mare Winx, the world’s highest-rated horse on turf, completed her 17th straight win with a five-length victory in the day’s richest race, the $3 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2,000 metres.
Trevor Marshallsea, The Associated Press