Ryan Moore rides Protectionist to win the Melbourne Cup.Ryan Moore rides Protectionist to win the Melbourne Cup.

German raider Protectionist timed his finishing burst to perfection to win the Melbourne Cup yesterday, 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 ($5.38 million) 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.

“Very good horse with very strong pace. Once he got the space, he’s really 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.

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.

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