The Cliffs of Moher died after last year's Melbourne Cup. This photo was taken one month before.

The photograph of four-year-old The Cliffs of Moher, lying on his back, was shared following his premature death at approximately 3:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon, almost exactly one year ago today.

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 at Flemington Racecourse.

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 Cliffs of Moher was never going to get better. He died at four years old, 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 what happened to him. But to many, it looks as though the photo was taken in The Cliffs of Moher's last moments, when he was injured and in pain.


It wasn't.

The photo was taken less than a month before he died, on October 18, 2018, 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 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 Cliffs of Moher'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 harrowing.

The viral photos of The Cliffs of Moher shared after the 2018 Melbourne Cup didn't tell the story of his death. They told the story of his life. That was never really his to begin with.