The CEO of Perth Racing says Western Australia’s horse racing industry should be proud of its equine welfare record, despite the death of a runner in the state’s highest-profile race.

The Perth Cup was abandoned mid-race on New Year’s Day after two horses fell just 200 metres into the race.

WA mare Chili Is Hot had to put down on the track after being attended to by staff, while another horse, Dom To Shoot, was injured.

Perth Racing chief executive James Oldring said an inquiry into the incident was underway.

horses racing on a green field. You can see two horses are tangled and falling.
Chili is Hot had to be put down after falling early in Sunday’s Perth Cup. (Supplied: 7 news)

“I think it’s very important that we allow the stewards to conduct the inquiry, so we’re absolutely clear about how it came about,” he told ABC Radio Perth.

“And then we work together as a sport to see if there’s anything that we could have done differently to prevent it from happening.

A man in a suit and tie looking serious.
Perth Racing CEO James Oldring says there will always be an element of risk to the sport. (ABC News: Cason Ho)

“Chili is Hot clipped the heels of the horse in front which caused her to fall and Dom To Shoot was then unable to avoid her and also came down.”

Mr Oldring said horse racing was a high-risk sport, but those involved did everything they could to mitigate any danger.

“As with every high-intensity sport, there will always be that element of risk,” he said.

“I think WA, actually Australia as a whole, should be quite proud of their equine welfare record. They have the lowest fatality rate in flat racing in the world.”

‘The horse comes first’

Protesters had gathered outside Ascot Racecourse prior to the fatality, the latest in a string of high-profile incidents to spark criticism.

“The key thing for me is to distinguish between animal rights activists who have a stated mandate that no animal should ever be used for sport, full stop,” Mr Oldring said.

“I’m probably very, very unlikely to change the minds of people that take that viewpoint.”

Mr Oldring said those involved in animal welfare, such as the RSPCA, worked with the racing industry to ensure the “utmost care” of the horses.

“The horse comes first. They are elite athletes and they’re treated as such,” he said.

The home straight of a racecourse with the finishing post visible.
Racegoers at Ascot were left stunned on Sunday after the tragic fall. (ABC News: Cason Ho)

“In WA we spend $4 million a year on equine welfare programs, and that includes programs for retraining retired horses, funding veterinary research, baseline scanning, training those who look after the thoroughbreds, and we invest thousands of man hours into the preparation of racing surfaces to ensure that they’re as safe and as fair as possible.

“Nobody puts more scrutiny on equine welfare than the participants themselves and everybody involved.”

The Perth Cup will be re-run on January 14.