Stewards Report - The Cliffsofmoher Fatality Review

Racing Victoria (RV) has today released the findings of a veterinary and stewards’ review of the injury sustained by Irish visitor The Cliffsofmoher during the running of the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on 6 November 2018.


The Aidan O’Brien-trained The Cliffsofmoher sustained the injury passing the winning post on the first occasion, approximately 800m into the race, and was subsequently humanely euthanised by RV veterinarians on the track.


Summary of the Review


The summary of the review is as follows:


  1. a post-mortem examination was performed by the University of Melbourne;


  2. analytical testing of samples collected from The Cliffsofmoher in training; post-race on Caulfield Cup Day (20 October 2018); and both before and after his injury on Melbourne Cup Day, which included samples of blood, urine and joint fluid, was performed by Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL);


  3. a thorough review was undertaken of the horse’s medical and veterinary records; training records; and racing history;


  4. consultation was conducted with, and observations obtained from, Mr O’Brien’s staff; the regulatory veterinarians on duty at Caulfield on Caulfield Cup Day; the regulatory veterinarians on duty at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day; and the veterinary team permanently assigned to the quarantine facility at Werribee Racecourse where The Cliffsofmoher was stabled and exclusively trained;


  5. the post mortem examination confirmed the clinical diagnosis of a fracture to the right shoulder (a comminuted diaphyseal fracture of the right humerus);


  6. diaphyseal fractures of the humerus are often associated with previous stress fractures, however, based on the post mortem and expert analysis thereof, there was no evidence of periosteal callus or bone cysts, suggesting that the injury had developed quickly in the horse and was not long-standing;


  7. the type and location of fracture the horse sustained to the right shoulder meant that it was not amendable to surgical repair;


  9. based on the nature of the injury and the information obtained during the review, there is no evidence to suggest that the Flemington track, which was rated a Soft 6 following heavy rainfall, was a contributing factor;


  10. no substances prohibited under the Australian Rules of Racing, nor any substance that might have contributed to the horse’s death, were detected in any samples collected from the horse;


  11. the review of The Cliffsofmoher’s veterinary and treatment records found there was nothing that would give rise to any identifiable issue with the horse nor constitute a breach of the Australian Rules of Racing;


  12. the review of The Cliffsofmoher’s training records found there was nothing that would give rise to any identifiable issue with the horse, including after its run in the Caulfield Cup in which it placed third;


  13. that a pre-race veterinary inspection of The Cliffsofmoher prior to the Melbourne Cup by a panel of three RV veterinarians determined that the horse was suitable to take his place in the race;


  14. that all runners in the Melbourne Cup were under full-time security surveillance for the 24 hours prior to the race and that nothing untoward was witnessed regarding the management and preparation of The Cliffsofmoher in that period.


  15. that the horse’s behaviour on the day of the Melbourne Cup, in particular prior to the start when it was freely sweating, was consistent with the horse’s pattern of behaviour at previous race starts both in Europe and Australia and was not a one-off occurrence, this was communicated to RV and confirmed by the stable prior to arrival in Australia; and


  16. that there was no information available to determine that the fact that The Cliffsofmoher had been part of the plane load of international horses that were delayed in Sharjah for 21 hours en route to Australia due to a broken windscreen was a contributing factor.


Summary of the Findings


The review ultimately found that:


  1. The Cliffsofmoher sustained a fracture to the right shoulder and that, on all the available information, no party could have predicted the injury was going to occur prior to the race; and


  2. The RV veterinary team made the correct decision, and the kindest one for the horse, in electing to euthanise The Cliffsofmoher in a timely manner on the day.


Quotes attributable to Jamie Stier, RV Executive General Manager – Integrity Services


“A thorough review has been undertaken in association with the University of Melbourne and Racing Analytical Services Limited of the circumstances that ultimately led to the injury, and subsequent humane euthanasia, of The Cliffsofmoher on Melbourne Cup Day.


“That review ultimately found that The Cliffsofmoher sustained a fracture to the right shoulder and that, on all the available information, no party could have predicted the injury was going to occur prior to the race.


“The information gathered and examined did not show any evidence of any pre-existing injury or condition which would have indicated The Cliffsofmoher was likely to sustain such an injury and there is no evidence that the Flemington track contributed to the fall.”


“With the physiology of horses being as it is, when any horse sustains an injury of the nature of that sustained by The Cliffsofmoher humane euthanasia of the horse is not only the kindest outcome but also the appropriate action to take as it is not possible for such an injury to mend in horses.


“In the end, this was an injury that occurs rarely in the racing horse with the rate of fatal incidents in Victorian racing 0.05% of all starters.


“Visiting international horses are already subjected to enhanced veterinary scrutiny in their home country before travelling to Australia, and also throughout their time at the Werribee International Horse Centre.


“That said, the increased incidence of racing and training injuries among the international horses during the spring requires further examination and we have commissioned a review to determine whether there are any identifiable risks that we can address in the future.


“That review will consider the medical records, training records and racing history of the international horses that sustained an injury, the facilities at Werribee and independent expert advice. We expect it to be completed by the end of March 2019 for consideration by the RV Board.”


“Racing Victoria would again like to extend their sympathies to all those associated with The Cliffsofmoher.




Media Contact: Verity Clough – Racing Victoria PR and Communications Manager

M: 0417 385 068 E: