A horse died on the opening day of the Grand Annual Steeplechase carnival at Warrnambool, casting an even darker shadow over the future of jumps racing across the Tasman.
Shine The Armour, ridden by apprentice Michelle Hagley, was euthanised after crashing through the second-last hurdle in the 3200m Callaghan Motors Maiden Hurdle. Racing authorities are awaiting autopsy results to confirm the cause of death.
The rider, Hagley was knocked unconscious in the fall but regained consciousness before her trip to hospital for observation. Two other horses fell as a result of the collision
The future of jumps racing is under a growing cloud, with Racing Victoria granting the sport a three-year reprieve last year, but making it clear that the death rate must be kept down.
However, welfare advocates opposed to the sport say the deaths so far this season were predictable and have called for an immediate suspension of the season. So far, five horses have died in jumps racing and trials in Victoria and South Australia in 2011 topping the death toll for last season.
Racing Victoria has set fall rates (3% of starters) and death rates (0.65% of starters) as benchmarks for the continuance of jumps racing. Even prior to the death of Shine The Amour, the 2011 season statistics were triple those imposed limits.