Victoria’s Warrnambool Racing Club has vowed to continue jumps racing despite intense RSPCA criticism following the death of a racehorse.
Viva Delspec suffered a knee injury when it faulted at the 17th of 20 fences at Warrnambool on Thursday. The horse was put down.
The race was only the second jumps event for 2014.
RSPCA Victorian president Dr Hugh Wirth condemned the sport as “little more than a cruel game of Russian roulette for horses”.
But Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive officer John Green rejected the cruelty accusation.
“We’re very disappointed with the passing of Viva Delspec and our sympathies go to the connections but we are focused on what we can do to further improve jumps racing,” Mr Green told AAP.
“I believe it is a natural action for the horses. They compete in jumps racing. They have the aptitude and they want to do it.
“It is a big part of our heritage and our operation.
“It’s fair to say that we’re the club that has invested most in jumps racing and we run a very successful carnival.”
The club has been running jumps racing for more than 150 years.
Dr Wirth said the state government must ban the sport.
“Rather than banning this activity like most other states, our government has invested $2 million of taxpayers’ dollars into jumps racing,” he said.
“By investing in and allowing jumps racing to continue, the state government is making their disregard for animal welfare clear.”
A government spokesman said the Victorian coalition committed in 2010 to spend $2 million over four years to improve jumps safety and the sport’s profile.
Premier and Racing Minister Denis Napthine said the evidence shows that in recent years there’s been a significant improvement in safety in jumps racing.
“In this case, I’m advised yesterday, the horse did not fall, it was not a jumping accident. This horse pulled up, and on examination was found to have a significant problem and unfortunately had to be put down,” he said.
The former veterinarian’s southwest Victorian seat is based around Warrnambool.
A Racing Victoria spokesman said the sport’s fatality rate had fallen 60 per cent in the past four years but that the latest death showed it could not rest on its laurels.