Monday, February 3, 2014

Premier Information: The Official Starter - Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, Premier Information wrote an article about 'The Official Start - Part 1'. Below is section two, which contains information all about Jump Starts.

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Q: What goes on beforehand?

As with the Flat, the Starter will arrive down at the Start about ten minutes before the scheduled off time for the race – this time to test the Starting Gate.

Q: And once the horses arrive at the Start?

As there are no Stalls Handlers over the jumps, the Starter and his Assistant(s) will check the horses’ girths themselves, before informing the jockeys when there’s half a minute to go before the off. They can pull their goggles down and prepare themselves for racing. During this time, the horses will be circling in a defined area behind the Start itself.

Q: Starting the race

Once the scheduled off time for the race has been reached the Starter will, from his rostrum and using a loudspeaker system, instruct the riders to come forward towards the Starting Gate in an orderly fashion. When he is satisfied that all of the riders are happy with the positions they have taken up, he releases the Starting Gate and the race begins. For a Starter, the perfect ‘walk in’ start comes when horses approach the tape in a tight bunch and in a controlled fashion.

Q: What’s required in terms of cooperation from the jockeys?

Obviously, a good start to a race is highly dependent on the cooperation of the riders involved. Starters expect them to take notice of any instructions that they might give, and jockeys can be suspended for any misconduct that takes place.

Q: Why do some horses appear to get a ‘flyer’ whilst others seem to be left behind?

In recognising the importance of a fair Start – both for the sport itself and for those betting on it – the Starter is looking for a tightly bunched and controlled field walking forwards towards the Starting Gate. He is not, however, in a position to interfere with the likely tactics of the participants. Sometimes, the rest of the field can be very happy to let a known front runner go on in front and set the pace of the race. Similarly, a horse that is known to want cover behind other horses might be asked to ‘drop in’ at the back of the field, seemingly off the main pace in the race. Whilst in these scenarios it can appear that horses are not starting in the optimum tight bunch, the Starter accepts that each participant is nevertheless happy with their starting position and is ready to begin the race.

Q: What does a False Start entail?

A False Start is likely to involve a mechanical malfunction of the Starting Stalls (on the Flat) or Starting Gate (over Jumps), resulting in an unfair start. In the event that a horse breaks through the tape (over Jumps), a False Start will also be called. Riders are recalled when the Advanced Flag Operator, standing down the course and in front of the oncoming horses, waves a flag and blows a whistle on instruction from the Starter. They then return to the Start and begin the race again.

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