Champion New Zealand horse trainer Chris Waller says images of former racehorses being slaughtered in a Queensland abattoir were so sickening he could not watch.
Waller, who is based in Australia, trained Yes Yes Yes, the winner of yesterday's 1200-metre The Everest sprint at Randwick in Sydney, which featured prizemoney of $14 million.
He says the Australian racing industry must step up after revelations that thousands of former racehorses are being destroyed each year.
He was referring to an ABC documentary that aired in Australia this week looking into the fate of racehorses as they reach the end of their on-track careers. The programme included footage of abattoir workers tormenting animals before they were killed.
"I was shocked. A lot of the vision I couldn't watch myself. It was sickening. To think that there were a few horses that were racehorses was bad enough.
"But for any horse for it to happen to them ... it just blew me away as it has with my fellow colleagues and trainers and lovers of animals."
In Melbourne, a Japanese horse took out the $5 million Caulfield Cup for the second time in six years, with Mer De Glace winning.
At both venues, members of the public held protests about the troubled sport.
Broadcaster Bruce McAvaney told viewers it was a big day for racing in Sydney and Melbourne.
"But we do arrive at Caulfield and Randwick today at a critical time for the entire racing industry," he said.
"Thursday night's ABC expose of what happens to some retired racehorses calls for immediate action.
"It was horrifying to watch - as a small-time owner it made me feel ashamed.
"And not to have known is not good enough."
McAvaney said it was a "complex issue" that would require a unified approach across all levels of the racing industry.
"The nurturing of our racehorses in retirement is just as important as the care and training given to a yearling or a four-year-old champion," he said.
"It's a complex issue that must be addressed as a priority."
The Everest saw horses competing representing a dozen "slot holders" including Godolphin, Coolmore, The Star casino, Aquis, the TAB, Inglis and Chris Waller Racing.
The three-year-old colt Yes Yes Yes, ridden by Glen Boss and trained by Waller - best known for his training association with superstar mare Winx - came through in the final 200m to take the lead and win from Santa Ana Lane and Trekking.
An emotional Waller, who started the day speaking out about the need for racing to respond to recent revelations of abuse of former racehorses at slaughterhouses, expressed joy at the big win after convincing Coolmore Australia to run the young horse in The Everest.
Protests mark the day in Sydney and Melbourne
Vocal crowds registered their protests at both racecourses on the day.
In Melbourne, a group of protesters had gathered at the front gate of the Caulfield Racecourse to take racegoers to task about the abattoir scandal.
A woman and her partner said it was the first time they had joined anti-racing protesters at Caulfield Racecourse because the ABC story demonstrated that the way horses are treated was "absolutely disgusting".
She said she had always been an animal lover but the ABC story made it "a little bit more real".
"It's just about time that people started realising it's absolutely not glamorous. There's nothing glamorous about it. It's not a royal event," she said.
"It's a traditional event that should be put to bed. Enough is enough."
Another protester, who lives in Caulfield, said he could not stand by while horses were killed "with impunity" if they were too slow.
"I have a rescued greyhound. It's the same thing in all racing industries where they depend on animals," he said.
"I think it's been a shock to people who work in the industry. I know people who work in the gambling industry and they're completely shocked.
"They have to question how they feel about it and why they keep supporting it, just to look glamorous. It's not glamorous."
Kinder approach in NZ - ex-racing commentator
A former racing commentator believes there's a gentler approach in New Zealand to unwanted racehorses, compared with Australia.
Tim Green said there are lots of opportunities here for horses when their racing career ends.
"The eventing world, pony club world - all of that sort of activity is downstream so there are opportunities for horses and we really don't have probably the same level or extent of problems that have been revealed in the last few days in Queensland."
He said there are also many people working tirelessly to rehome racehorses.
- ABC / RNZ