Melbourne Cup: Anthony Van Dyck Tragedy Leads To New CT Scan Requirement, Other Safety Benchmarks - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Melbourne Cup: Anthony Van Dyck Tragedy Leads To New CT Scan Requirement, Other Safety Benchmarks

Anthony Van Dyck and Seamie Heffernan win the Investec Derby for trainer Aidan O’Brien

Racing Victoria (RV), together with the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), have announced the industry's plan to set a new global safety benchmark for horses competing in the Spring Racing Carnival. The new safety measures, to be introduced this year, follow an extensive review into the rate of injuries sustained by international horses during the Spring Racing Carnival over the past decade, with a primary focus on Australia's greatest race, the Melbourne Cup.

The process involved the review group covering four key areas: the higher rate of injuries among visiting and imported horses over the past decade; pre- and post-travel veterinary and diagnostic requirements; training facilities both internationally and upon arrival in Melbourne; and the conditions of the Melbourne Cup.

The review group also considered a fatality report compiled by RV following the injury and subsequent euthanasia of Aidan O'Brien trainee Anthony Van Dyck in the 2020 Melbourne Cup.

The report details that, following his arrival in Australia, Anthony Van Dyck's private veterinarian diagnosed Proximal Suspensory Desmitis (PSD) in all four limbs, a condition that is common in athletic horses and is considered low risk for serious injury. The diagnostic procedures used by the stable's private veterinarian included nerve blocks, a highly common practice used by veterinarians to temporarily desensitize localized areas when examining the soundness of equine athletes.

The diagnosis of PSD was consistent with the findings of Anthony Van Dyck's post mortem and is considered unrelated to the fatal fractures sustained by the horse in the Melbourne Cup. Having reasonably accepted the diagnosis of PSD and in the absence of other clinical signs, further diagnostic examination was not sought by the stable or RV.

The fatality report found that, whilst current veterinary processes were followed, had mandatory precautionary diagnostic imaging been in place, it may have identified the potential for Anthony Van Dyck to incur a more serious racing injury.

The review group ultimately determined that there are multiple contributing factors to injuries in horses, particularly among international horses travelling to Australia, and thus a combination of recommendations, each contributing to reduce the risk of injury, was required.

The headline initiatives being implemented with the aim of reducing injuries among international horses during the Spring Racing Carnival and among all horses competing in the Melbourne Cup are as follows:


  • An enhanced pre-travel veterinary examination process will ensure an unprecedented level of scrutiny on horses wishing to travel with additional compulsory diagnostic imaging and examinations to be conducted;
  • All international horses wishing to enter WIHC must undergo full body scintigraphy and CT/MRI of their distal limbs at the expense of their connections two to six weeks prior to entering pre-export quarantine;
  • Horses that have had a previous major fracture or orthopaedic surgery will be excluded from travelling and entering WIHC regardless of their current health and soundness; and
  • An RV appointed veterinarian will conduct a pre-travel veterinary examination in pre-export quarantine within a week of travelling to Australia to ensure the ongoing suitability of horses to travel.

Post-Arrival in Australia

  • All international horses that arrive at WIHC must also undergo a CT scan of their distal limbs prior to each start in Victoria during the Spring Racing Carnival before being permitted to compete, with the costs to be met by RV;
  • Dedicated RV appointed veterinary staff will provide and/or oversee veterinary clinical services for international horses at WIHC instead of stables appointing their own private veterinarians; and
  • Enhanced oversight will include new trackwork monitoring processes and systems along with the world-first introduction of cortisol analysis to monitor stress levels in international horses based at WIHC.

Werribee International Horse Centre

  • The WIHC will be retained as the industry's quarantine facility and international training center with further enhancements to be made to the two training tracks and veterinary examination facilities;
  • The depth of the profile of the sand-fibre track will be increased and track preparation modified to increase the depth and frequency of harrowing, while the crossing will be upgraded on the turf track;
  • The number of international horses permitted to enter the WIHC for the Spring Racing Carnival will be capped at 24 – down from an uncapped peak of 42 in 2018; and
  • Imported international horses ('one-way tickets'), whilst in training, will be required to remain at the WIHC until at least the conclusion of Melbourne Cup week before being permitted to transfer to different training facilities.

Melbourne Cup

  • In what is believed to be a world-first initiative, all horses – international and local – must undergo a CT scan of their distal limbs before being permitted to compete in the Melbourne Cup, with the costs to be met by RV;
  • That diagnostic imaging must be performed after the date of the Caulfield Cup and prior to Melbourne Cup final acceptances, with local horses permitted to start between their imaging and the Melbourne Cup;
  • These scans will be reviewed by a panel of three RV-appointed international experts in equine surgery and veterinary diagnostic imaging to determine the horse's suitability to race;
  • International horses that travel to Australia via the WIHC will be permitted to have a maximum of one start only in Australia prior to contesting the Melbourne Cup; and
  • An additional pre-race veterinary inspection of all starters will be conducted by a panel of RV veterinarians on the day prior to the Melbourne Cup, in addition to that already conducted on the Thursday/Friday prior to the race.

To facilitate the implementation of the plan, RV, the VRC and the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) have today also announced that nominations for the 2021 Melbourne Cup and 2021 Caulfield Cup will be brought forward to Aug. 3 to allow sufficient time for extensive veterinary examinations of international entries. The final race conditions of the 2021 Melbourne Cup will be published in June.

Additional information about the new initiatives is available here.

Paulick Report Icon

Receive daily headlines, breaking news alerts, promotions, and much more!

Ask Ray?

Have a question for Ray that you'd like answered? Have a news tip? Ray will go to his network of sources in pursuit of an answer.

Ask Ray