The Warrnambool carnival was anything but incident free, but if you look at the attitudes of the jumps fanatics after the running of the Grand Annual Steeplechase, you could easily be mistaken for thinking it was.
The Warrnambool Carnival (which is the height of the jumps racing season) is notorious for killing horses in jumps racing. Here’s a little recent history of horses who have perished during the three-day carnival which hosts only 5 or 6 jumps races:
2011: Shine The Armour
2010: Sirrocean Storm
2009: Pride Of Westbury, Hassle and Clearview Bay (yep, you better believe it – they killed two horses in one race and one horse in another!)
2008: Poker Face
And of course, who could forget the Banna Strand incident where he dumped his rider and jumped over a 2m fence into a crowd of people, that brought international attention to the sport of jumps racing (just the wrong kind that our Racing Minister Denis Napthine was hoping for).
During the 2012 Warrnambool Carnival, jumps fans, anti-jumps activists and racing administrators were all holding their breaths. On day 1 we saw Phaze Action crash through the wing of a jump. On Day 2 we saw Our Aristocrat fall and escape death by millimetres, and on day three Goldtown was also nearly killed after falling. So you can imagine the anticipation for the Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Thankfully, the Grand Annual Steeplechase was without major incident – no horses fell or died, however one horse still failed to finish the race. A steward was witnessed yelling to the crowd after the race “Yessssssss! We made it – all horses are through. Woooooooooooooooooo!” as though there was some anticipation that she was expecting a horse to die.
If jumps racing is a legitimate sport as a few may say, then how can the industry celebrate when none of the six jumps races were held without incident (in every race a horse was either pulled out early or fell). Jumps racing does not operate on safety or certainty, the most determining factor as to whether horses live or die is chance. In the words of our Communciations Manager, Ward Young, “Like a serial killer, jumps racing can kill at any moment.”