MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Melbourne Cup favorite Admire Rakti collapsed and died after finishing last at Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday.
The Japanese-trained horse started the race as 5-1 favorite but faded toward the end of the grueling 3,200 meter handicap.
“The favorite Admire Rakti on return to the stalls after the race has collapsed and died,” Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey said.
“Our vets are on hand and the horse will undergo an autopsy. We will have to await those results for the cause of the death.”
It was the second year in a row that a Melbourne Cup runner died. French horse Verema was put down after snapping a bone in its lower leg in last year’s race.
Admire Rakti, a seven-year-old stallion, had been carrying 58.5 kg in weight after his impressive victory at the Caulfield Cup, one of the traditional lead up races to the Melbourne Cup.
Owner Riichi Kondo had told Fairfax Media after that win he might consider pulling the Tomoyuki Umeda-trained stayer out of the Melbourne Cup if he was penalized with an extra half a kilo of weight.
“Extra weight would be a worry because I have the horse’s welfare to think of,” he said. “I would be worried if he was to get any more than 58 (kg). Back in Japan, 58 is the highest weight allotted to any horse.”
Ultimately Admire Rakti’s connections decided that the horse would run and he started in the leading pack before fading to finish some 25 lengths behind the second last horse.
Bailey said vets had reacted quickly when it was apparent Admire Rakti was unwell.
“Straight away on its performance, normal procedure here, especially the favorite, is for it to be vetted anyway,” he added.
“We were certainly on to it and unfortunately in the process of going back to the stalls and getting hosed down and going to the swap box the horse passed away.”
Another runner, Araldo, was taken to a vets hospital in nearby Werribee where he underwent X-rays to determine the extent of an injury to one of his hind legs.
The Mike Moroney-trained stayer, who had finished seventh, was spooked on his way back to the mounting yard when a spectator waved a flag and he kicked out at a fence, injuring the limb in the process.
“He was coming back and basically did a 360. He whipped around and he’s kicked the fence with his right hind,” Bailey added.
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Peter Rutherford