There were three certainties on Melbourne Cup day. And the fate of Rostropovich was one of them.

If you watched the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday afternoon, you might have noticed that in the last 400 metres, one horse began to trail significantly behind.

Then, once the race ended, and spectators celebrated the win of Vow and Declare, the horse that had dropped behind was nowhere to be seen.

Rostropovich, we now know, was pulled up by his jockey Dwayne Dunn during the final sprint to the end.

The five-year-old gelding went straight from the track at Flemington Racecourse to Werribee Vet Clinic. According to the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, Rostropovich has been “badly injured” and is unable to bear weight. It is suspected he has suffered a cracked pelvis – an injury that sees some horses euthanised.

Racing Victoria has confirmed that Rostropovich was inspected following the race and was “found to be lame”.


“He hasn’t pulled up too well,” Dunn told reporters track side. “He’s obviously sustained an injury somewhere in the run.”

One of Rostropovich’s trainers, David Hayes, added, “He couldn’t weight bear. But I think with a lot of painkillers he’s relieved. It’s a sad story anyway.”

It does seem that when we stumbled out of bed this morning, this sort of news was inevitable.

Today, on November 5, 2019, we knew that one horse would win. One horse would lose. And one horse would – as the odds would have it – die. Usually as a result of injury.

Six racehorses in six years have died at the Melbourne Cup – the track at Flemington Racecourse being one of the last things they ever see.

In 2013, it was four-year-old Verema, who snapped a bone in her lower leg, about 2000 metres in. While the tarp was erected, the cheers of the winning party could be heard throughout Flemington, as the Cup was officially awarded.

In 2014, it was Admire Rakti, who dropped dead in his stall following the race. Not long afterwards, Araldo was euthanised after sustaining a broken leg.

The following year, Red Cadeaux broke a bone in his front left leg. He died as a result of surgery complications two weeks later.
Then, in 2017, Regal Monarch fell mid-race. He was put down that evening.

In 2018, spectators watched as veterinarians rushed to erect a green tarp around yet another fallen horse, four-year-old The Cliffs of Moher, desperately trying to save him.

But he never recovered. The Cliffs of Moher died 15 years before his life expectancy.

And then there’s the 122 racehorses that have been killed in 2019, according to the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. One horse will die on Australian racetracks every three days. The most common cause is “catastrophic front limb injury”.


At this point, we don’t know what will happen to Rostropovich.

He might survive.

Or he might be the horse our nation sacrifices on the first Tuesday of every November.