Admire Rakti, who collapsed and died in his stall after the race, and Araldo, who fractured his right hind leg and had to be euthanized, died in the 2014 event. The next year, fan favorite Red Cadeaux was slain while lying on the ground with a fractured leg. He was 12 years old.
Red Cadeaux was one of the most popular horses in American racing history. He won three Grade 1 races during his career and earned over $1 million. His death at the age of 12 caused an outpouring of grief from fans around the world.
John Velazquez was the jockey who rode Admire Rakti. He has been called "the greatest living jockey" by some journalists. In 2014, he became only the second person to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year. He also won the Sunshine State Classic at Calder Race Course on Admire Rakti's last run.
This accident happened when John Velazquez was attempting to pass another rider down the backstretch during the first race at Del Mar on July 26th.
Sixty-six horses have died during the final race of National Velvet renown since 1839, the generally acknowledged commencement year of the legendary steeplechase. Twenty-two horses have died on that last day since 1984. Although the deaths of these magnificent animals are very sad, they are not surprising given the nature of the sport.
Steeplechasing is a dangerous sport. The horses are required to climb up and down hills at high speeds while being forced headfirst into hedges and other obstacles. Many injuries can result from these challenges; some fatal.
In addition to the aforementioned fatalities, many more horses suffer injuries that keep them out of competition for months or years. Some of these injured horses are put down because they are no longer able to provide comfort to their owners. Others recover and are retired after having served their purpose. Either way, the death or injury of a horse is considered a tragedy by those who love them.
National Velvet was not responsible for any of the 66 previous deaths. However, she will be unable to compete this year due to an injury she suffered during her last race. Velvet will be sent to live out her remaining days at Lord Mandrake's farm in Ireland. She will be cared for by Mrs. McSwane and under the supervision of Dr. O'Hara.
Horses die all the time on racetracks. 116 of them perished on Australian racetracks in the previous racing year. Their deaths were harrowing and terrifying, a twisted jumble of limbs, fractured bones, and broken spines. They died of old age or illness, or sometimes when they are hit by cars or kicked during race fights.
The number of horse deaths on Australian tracks is relatively high compared with other countries. There are several reasons for this: steeply graded tracks that are hard to see where you can't ride, poorly maintained fences, and lack of training and grooming facilities. The majority of these deaths could be prevented if trainers took more care when selecting races for their animals and restricted their stars' workloads.
In 2015, there were three days of racing at the Melbourne Cup. On average, about 100 horses die each year in American horse racing. In Britain, around 70 die. In New Zealand, it's about 40.
The number of deaths has fallen over the years but they still account for almost 10% of all horses that end up in emergency shelters across Australia. Many survivors of fatal accidents suffer long-term health problems and some are too injured to be re-trained for another career in racing.
On average, three horse fatalities occur throughout the three-day period each year. Thus the overall death rate for horses participating in National Velvet over its history is about 1 in 5.
The number of deaths during National Velvet itself is two times the expected number for a similar race with no prize money. It is estimated that between five and ten horses die during each of the three days of the race. This would mean that between 20 and 40 horses have died during National Velvet over the years. This is a higher percentage than that reported by other thoroughbred racing countries such as England and Australia where estimates range from one to four deaths per year out of several hundred races.
It is difficult to say what causes these deaths because there are so many different factors involved. However, it is known that some horses suffer heart attacks or collapse while running National Velvet. Others appear fine after training but then die within an hour of the race starting. Still others recover quickly after medical treatment for injuries sustained during other races or during training but then die soon after the track surface is changed before National Velvet begins.
It may be that horses are simply not fit enough to run 100 miles over 3 days without suffering some sort of injury.