The race at the Cranbourne Cup on Sunday involved three men charging down a 50-metre course with dwarfs dressed in jockey silks riding piggyback, and has been denounced by government officials and advocacy groups.
“Well look, there’s often a fine line between a bit of fun and a silly stunt and I think this falls into the latter category,” Victorian racing minister Rob Hulls told state radio.
“I mean the Midget’s Cup, for goodness sake. It’s certainly no way of promoting this great Spring Carnival right around the world, right around Australia and right throughout Victoria.”
The controversy comes days after an Australian talent show came under fire for airing a comedy troupe skit involving dancers wearing afro wigs and black-painted faces to impersonate late pop star Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5.
Stuart Laing, a marketing manager at Racing Victoria, said the dwarf race was intended to be “harmless fun”, but apologised and said it would not be repeated.
“We understand that you can’t please everyone and if anyone’s offended by the events of Sunday then we apologise to them,” he said.
The Short Statured People of Australia also hit out at the race, saying using dwarfs for laughs “just makes life harder for us”.
“I know people who are actors and do plays and skits for a living but this is more like taking the mickey out of us,” said Jonathon Tripp, chairman of the group’s Victorian branch.
“They could have used real jockeys but they used short-statured people to get more laughs.”