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Twilight Payment won the 2020 Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most prestigious horse race, although the event was overshadowed by the death of Anthony Van Dyck, the Aidan O’Brien trained colt who broke down on the final straight at Flemington Racecourse.

The victory was trainer Joseph O’Brien’s second in the Melbourne Cup as Twilight Payment – piloted by jockey Jye McNeil – led from the start and held off late challenges from Tiger Moth and Prince of Arran.

Known as the “race that stops a nation,” this year’s Melbourne Cup was held without spectators amid the coronavirus pandemic and proceedings took a tragic turn with the announcement that 2019 Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck had sustained a fatal injury.

“It is with sadness that we confirm that Anthony Van Dyck had to be humanely euthanized after sustaining a fractured fetlock during the running of the Melbourne Cup at Flemington,” said Racing Victoria’s Jamie Stier.

“The horse received immediate veterinary care, however he was unable to be saved due to the nature of the injury sustained.

“Our sympathies are extended to the owners of Anthony Van Dyck, trainer Aidan O’Brien and all his staff who cared for the horse and are greatly saddened by their loss.”

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Twilight Payment leads the field around the first bend at the 2020 Melbourne Cup.

‘Racing presents numerous risks for horses’

Along with Aidan O’Brien’s Tiger Moth, Anthony Van Dyck, ridden by Hugh Bowman, was one of the favorites to win Tuesday’s race, the Melbourne Cup’s 160th anniversary.

The death is the fifth fatal limb injury sustained at the Melbourne Cup since 1998, according to organizers. Over the past decade, Flemington Racecourse has averaged two fatal racing accidents a year in flat races.

“The RSPCA believes there are inherent animal welfare issues involved with horse racing,” said Dr. Liz Walker, CEO of RSPCA Victoria, in a statement.

“Whenever there is an adverse outcome for an animal, our expectation is that the industry will do a comprehensive review to identify ways to improve in an effort to avoid unnecessary injury or trauma in the future.

“Racing presents numerous risks for horses and this very unfortunate incident illustrates the need for the industry to work toward better welfare for animals used in sport.

“During this difficult time, RSPCA Victoria extends sincere sympathies to those who contributed to the care of Anthony Van Dyck.”

Hugh Bowman rides Anthony Van Dyck during the start of the Melbourne Cup.

Stier added in his statement that a fatality report would be prepared by Racing Victoria’s Integrity Services team which would provide “potential learnings to assist in the prevention of similar injuries in the future.”

Meanwhile, Tiger Moth’s jockey Kerrin McEvoy was fined AU$50,000 ($36,000) and suspended for 13 meetings by race stewards for breaching whip rules.

‘A will to win’

It was the second time Joseph O’Brien had denied father Aiden victory in the Melbourne Cup after Rekindling beat Johannes Vermeer in 2017.

This time, Twilight Payment led from the front of the field under 25-year-old McNeil, who was riding in his first Melbourne Cup and secured the top prize of AU$4.4 million ($3.1 million).

Jye McNeil celebrating after winning the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse.

“The one thing that this fella Twilight Payment has is an incredible will to win,” O’Brien, who couldn’t be at the racecourse due to coronavirus restrictions, told from back home in Ireland.

“He’s got stamina and a will to win, you can’t buy that. He was on the lead all the way, he went for home early.

“We had a good chat with Jye and Jye had a very clear plan in his head and what he wanted to do. We felt that if we had to make the field come and get him then they might struggle to catch him and that’s how it worked out.”