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"The story behind this viral photograph is even sadder than we first thought."

The photograph of four-year-old The Cliffsofmoher, lying on his back, has been shared following his premature death at approximately 3:30pm on Tuesday afternoon.

Agitated before the race even began, Seven commentator Richard Freedman remarked that he was “melting like an ice-cream, really sweating up badly”.

But when the gates flung open, he ran. Just like he’d been trained to.

He only made it to the first turn before he ‘broke down’, shattering his shoulder and collapsing before 100,000 spectators.

While some might have yelled, held their head in the hands for a moment and then flung their ticket across the stalls muttering ‘what a waste of money that was’, others knew exactly what this meant.

Veterinarians rushed to erect green tarp around the fallen horse, desperately trying to save him. But The Cliffsofmoher was never going to get better. He died 15 years before his life expectancy.

The CliffsofMoher
The Cliffsofmoher at the Caulfield Cup. Image via Getty.

The story, though somewhat predictable given the loss of six racehorses in six years at the Melbourne Cup, was widely shared among Australians who find the celebration barbaric.

Many publications, including this one, used one of the most recent photos of the horse to tell the story of his tragic fate. But to many, it looks as though the photo was taken in The Cliffsofmoher's last moments, when he was injured and in pain.

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It wasn't.

The photo was taken less than a month ago, on October 18, at Wirribee Racecourse. He was playing.

There are a series of similar images, depicting the horse rolling around on his back not unlike a dog or a pig or a cat.

The Cliffsofmoher having a roll in the sand after a Werribee trackwork session at Werribee Racecourse. Image via Getty.

Horses roll after being untacked, according to animal behaviourists, to "ease the irritation of drying sweat".

The dirt, or sand in The Cliffsofmoher's case, also protects them against insects that bite them.

The photo appears to picture him in a moment of contentment.

That within three weeks, a horse can go from rolling carelessly in the sand to sustaining an injury so serious it would be more humane to put him down, is haunting.

The viral photos of The Cliffsofmoher don't tell the story of his death. They tell the story of his life. That was never really his to begin with.

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