Japanese favourite dies after finishing last at Melbourne Cup

Who Shot Thebarman, left behind, Red Cadeaux, center, and Protectionist with jockey Ryan Moore on board race to the finish line

Who Shot Thebarman, left behind, Red Cadeaux, center, and Protectionist with jockey Ryan Moore on board race to the finish line

German raider Protectionist timed his finishing burst to perfection to win the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, but the celebrations were muted by the death of favourite Admire Rakti, who collapsed and died in its stall after finishing last.

The death of the seven-year-old stallion, the second fatality in the last two years and fourth since 1979 in the "race that stops a nation," is sure to reignite the debate over the welfare of horses in the sport.

With another bumper crowd packed into Flemington Racecourse for the A$6.2 million (€4.3m) race, Protectionist was boxed in for much of the gruelling 3,200 metre handicap but stormed down the final straight to win by four lengths and give Germany its first winner in 154 runnings of the Cup.

"He's very easy," English jockey Ryan Moore said of the 7-1 shot in a trackside interview.

"Very good horse with very strong pace. Once he got the space, he's amazing."

Protectionist's success was the third for a European horse in the last five years after Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011) and will not ease concerns among local trainers about "foreign" raids on Australia's top silverware.

English nine-year-old Red Cadeaux (20-1) was second for the third time in Australia's most famous race after 2011 and 2013, while New Zealand-trained Who Shot Thebarman (16-1) came in third.

Irish mare My Ambivalent had overhauled Admire Rakti over the first few hundred yards and set the pace for much of the race before Red Cadeaux took the lead coming off the final bend.

Protectionist had found its way through the field by now, though, and once the five-year-old stallion hit the front he was never going to be caught.

"We have had great success all over the planet but this is the biggest of all," said trainer Andreas Wohler. "(Moore) was so patient, he couldn't have the position he wanted to have but he was so patient and when he came around the last bend he just needed the right gap. Ryan is a superstar.

"It's unbelievable. Later when we think about it, it's a moment in your life that you won't forget."

The Japanese-trained Admire Rakti, the 5-1 favourite and an impressive winner of the Caulfield Cup last month, had faded badly over the last few furlongs.

Carrying the top weight of 58.5kg, the horse was clearly agitated after the race and his stall was soon covered in a protective screen.

"The favourite Admire Rakti on return to the stalls after the race has collapsed and died," Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey told reporters.

"Our vets are on hand and the horse will undergo an autopsy. We will have to await those results for the cause of the death."

His death followed that of French mare Verema, who was put down after snapping a lower leg bone during the race last year.

Another of Tuesday's runners, Araldo, was taken to a nearby veterinary hospital where he underwent X-rays to determine the extent of an injury to one of his hind legs.

The Mike Moroney-trained stayer, who had finished seventh, was spooked on his way back to the mounting yard when a spectator waved a flag at him, kicking out at a fence and injuring the limb.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said it was a "tragic outcome" for the horses and called for a "full and transparent investigation" into both incidents.

"Events like these are a stark reminder to the community of the real risks to horses associated with racing," it said in a statement.

"Sadly, injury and death are the price some horses pay for our entertainment in a sport that puts intense pressure on animals to perform to the limits of their endurance."

Andy Murray draws Roger Federer in ATP Finals

Murray set to play at London's O2 Arena next week

Murray set to play at London’s O2 Arena next week

Andy Murray has avoided another clash world number one Novak Djokovic in the group stages of the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2 Arena next week.

The British number one looks to have been given a kind draw as he was matched with Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic in Group B, with the latter two competitors playing in the season-ending tournament for the first time.

Djokovic, who has beaten Murray on the four occasions they have played each other this year, will face Stan Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic in Group A.

Murray was forced to miss last year's competition as he continued his recovery from back surgery but he had qualified in the previous five years.

Yet he only guaranteed his spot for this year's event with a superb final few weeks which saw him win titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia before a run to the Paris Masters quarter-finals, where he was beaten by Djokovic in straight sets which ended an 11-match unbeaten run.

Murray could have been forgiven for wanting to be kept apart from his old rival given the Serbian's stronghold over him this season although he has lost twice to Federer this year, at the Australian Open in January and the Cincinnati Masters in August.

Their head-to-head is finely poised, currently standing at 11 wins apiece – but Federer has beaten Murray on the three occasions they have met at the O2.

And Murray will face the Swiss 17-time grand slam champion who is hoping to win his seventh World Tour Finals crown as well as regain the number one spot from Djokovic.

Murray has a losing record against the big-hitting Canadian Raonic, who holds a 3-1 advantage which includes a three-set victory in their latest encounter at Indian Wells earlier this year.

The Scot has won all three previous encounters with Nishikori, however, and will face the Japanese in his opening match, with a time and date to be confirmed.

Hamilton closes in on F1 title

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory at the United States Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory at the United States Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton won the United States Grand Prix for the second time in three years and took another significant stride towards this season’s title.

The gap between Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg is now 24 points after the 29-year-old claimed the chequered flag in front of a 100,000-strong crowd at the Circuit of the Americas.

It was the 32nd victory of Hamilton's career, making him the most successful Briton in F1 in terms of race wins, edging him ahead of 1992 champion Nigel Mansell.

Hamilton also becomes the first non-German to win 10 races in a season, with Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher both having won 11 and 13 apiece in past years.

In addition, Hamilton is now only the seventh driver in F1 to win at least five in a row, with the others being Alberto Ascari, Vettel, Schumacher, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark and Mansell.

For Rosberg, he was again forced to settle for second best for the 10th time this year after failing to convert pole position into a race win for the seventh occasion in nine attempts.

But rather than facing the prospect of his challenge coming to an end in next weekend's penultimate race of the year in Brazil, with double points on offer at the last event in Abu Dhabi in three weeks' time, he could yet steal the crown from Hamilton.

With four seconds between them at the end of the 56 laps, the result was Mercedes' 10th one-two this year, equalling McLaren's 1988 mark set by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

It has been some year for the Brackley-based marque, and although Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was third, he is now mathematically out of the hunt and it is a straight fight between Hamilton and Rosberg.