The news of Red Cadeaux’s passing has cut threw us like a knife. The courage of one plucky equine from Newmarket, lost, has drained the courage of an international nation of racing fans. No one can sow discordance quite like a party leader.
The moment I re-watched the 2015 Melbourne Cup I knew this day would come. I couldn’t sleep. We knew, didn’t we. It was only hope that saw us through the night, only a certain type of denial we’ve become accustomed to putting over our own knowledge of horses. I said the three little words that night, three little words none of us, least of all me, wanted to hear; St Nicholas Abbey. And we knew what those three little words meant because we know why so many horses get put to sleep on the racecourse. We know why we don’t need to reply to the ignorant and ill-informed anti-racing activists. Because there is nothing more unnatural than a horse standing still. To heal a horse is not only difficult, but it is bordering on the inhumane. And that’s where our humanity fissures. Because our minds contract ourselves at every moment; we want Red Cadeaux to live but in the same second we don’t want him to suffer. In a quote I will never forget, “Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both”.
The actions of Gerald Mosse, Werribee Veterinary Centre and the out-pouring of love from the racing community unites us in the face of such a tragedy. The picture of Gerald Mosse, walking so distressingly away from Red Cadeaux on Melbourne Cup day personified the entire racing community, worldwide. We can’t handle the possibility of you leaving us. Now perspective overrides normality. Red Cadeaux is injured. The horse that wins the race suddenly becomes unbelievably insignificant. Michelle Payne, your story is fantastic. On a normal day I would care. But, context. Loss overrules achievement. Especially when previous achievement is intertwined so deeply with the possibility of loss. You matter so much, Red. You’ve given so much, Red. We owe you, Red.
It has taken us nearly three weeks of that torturous denial before Red Cadeaux left us with only the one, painful question on our lips. Is this really worth it? To watch an animal we idolise and adore be taken away so cruelly from us? But then ask yourself, why did we idolise him. Was Red Cadeaux internationally loved because he was wrapped up in cotton wool? Or was it what he had shown to us for six years, time and time again; his tenacious, hardy, loveable, admirable qualities? Because that’s what its all about isn’t it. No one is loved for doing nothing. You don’t admire layabouts. It is far better, said Theodore Roosevelt, to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, than to not bother at all. That’s why we watch this sport. Champions are made, and they make themselves. As horses, too, they lack the distasteful and disagreeable qualities of humans. You’re perfect.
Horses have superpowers. While our emotions are held to ransom by them every day, they always answer our flailing faith. For British racing fans, this weekend of racing was simply sublime. As one treasured favourite left us, the others fought back into our hearts. Two weeks ago, Bob’s Worth. He won his first race for nearly two years. Last week, Sprinter Sacre, he won his first race since that Kempton incident that left him with so little Sprinter left. And then Rock On Ruby and Cue Card this weekend, in direct response to the void left by Red Cadeaux, tussled, brawled and wrestled their way to the front. Remember why we love them so much? Cue Card carried his head high all the way round, basically because that’s just how he his, but I read it as a show of steely defiance. You haven’t seen it all from me yet. I’ve got a little bit more, want to see? Lets put on a show. Then there’s Rock On Ruby, carrying the weight burden of eleven stone eight, with his opposition four to eight pounds lighter. Like Atlas, the world on his back, he defied it with determination. How do they do it? The equation is simple: a drop of equine courage = a grinning nation of anthropoids.
Nothing we do will make loss harder, but perspective works both ways. Put this into perspective, would we have cared if he hadn’t shown us the good times? Red Cadeaux meant so much because of what he did, not what he didn’t do. Acknowledging that doesn’t make it any easier, sadness doesn’t answer to sense, but it explains why we feel such sorrow. It also says, in one final flourishing display of defiance: enjoy the good days, enjoy what makes these horses important to us. Enjoy horse racing. There’s nothing quite like it.