Jumps racing in Victoria faces a permanent ban after the death of a third horse in two days prompted authorities to immediately suspend all events.
After two horses were put down on the final day of the Warrnambool May carnival, Racing Victoria Limited called an emergency review of jumps racing and said an announcement on its future would follow next week.
Animal welfare campaigners welcomed the suspension as the first step toward scrapping the sport altogether, while the state government also supported the move after the deaths of five horses at jumps racing events this year.
“We have asked the Jumps Review Panel to make a report to the board by early next week on the season so far and on all the incidents that have occurred,” RVL chief executive Rob Hines said after the feature Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool on Thursday.
“The RVL Board will be having an urgent board meeting next week and making a decision on the future of jumps racing and making a statement next week.”
Topweight Clearview Bay had to be put down after falling at the fourth-last fence of the gruelling Grand Annual, run over 5500m and over 33 fences.
The nine-year-old suffered the same fate as Pride Of Westbury, who broke his neck after falling at the last jump in the Galleywood Hurdle on Wednesday, while stablemate Hassle had to be put down after shattering a leg bone in a hurdle earlier on Thursday.
Victoria\’s deputy premier and Racing Minister Rob Hulls said the recent spate of deaths had horrified many Victorians.
“I have always maintained that the death of any horse is not an acceptable by-product of racing and the rate of deaths so far this season is unsustainable,” Mr Hulls said.
“It is incumbent upon the industry to show leadership to ensure the controversy surrounding jumps racing does not taint the entire racing industry.
“The Warrnambool Racing Club runs a terrific carnival, and I\’m sure the organisers are also distressed at these events.”
Thursday\’s announcement was immediately welcomed by Animal Liberation Victoria and Victorian Advocates for Animals, who have campaigned for years for jumps racing to be banned.
“It\’s a wise move on the part of Racing Victoria and shows they are beginning to wake up from the past and move into reality in the 21st century,” Victorian Advocates for Animals\’ president Lawrence Pope told AAP.
“People will not tolerate having our horses die or executed in front of them as part of a gambling or entertainment spectacle.”
The state government said the racing industry was put on notice after 12 deaths in 2008, which prompted RVL to commission a review by former judge David Jones.
Mr Hines said three jumps races at Moe on Sunday would be converted to high-weight flat races, adding he did not want to pre-empt any decision by the RVL board.
“The incidents have been so serious this season that we have to have a good hard look at it, but we need our experts, the Jumps Review Panel to have a look at it and put the information together,” he said, adding the number of fatalities needed to be less than the 12 recorded last year.
“We cannot continue at the rate we are at the moment.
“I think the outlook is difficult, but let us do the review and we\’ll have a position for you in a week.”