13 Feb 2008 Pre-2014 Releases

The British Horseracing Authority has announced the findings its Grand National Review Group, which was set up to look into the circumstances surrounding the delayed start to the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National and to investigate changes to the starting procedure. The Regulatory Committee of the BHA met on Monday 4th February and approved all the recommendations.

The Group was independently chaired by Robert Waley-Cohen, a leading National Hunt owner and Point-to-Point trainer. The members of the group included Tony Goodhew, BHA Director of Raceday Operations and Regulation, Andrew Tulloch, Aintree Clerk of the Course, trainers Jonjo O’Neill and Ferdy Murphy, and jockeys Tony McCoy, Mick Fitzgerald and Tony Dobbin.

The main conclusions of the Review Group were:

• The marker poles, which are usually two yards behind the starting tape, to be moved to twenty yards behind the starting tape.
• A sand line to be laid on the ground between the marker poles, giving the jockeys a definitive line on the ground that must not be crossed before the race is started.
• The Starter for the Grand National to rotate between the Senior Starter and his deputy on an annual basis.
• Increased penalties for disobeying the Starter.

The changes to the starting procedures were agreed following trials at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting and at Aintree’s November Meeting.

Commenting on the findings, Robert Waley-Cohen said:

“The Group found that the delay in last year’s Grand National was not the fault of the Senior Starter. The delay was due to a variety of other factors and the Group has therefore recommended a number of changes to the procedures to ensure such delays do not happen again.

“Moving the marker poles back a considerable distance, and marking a line on the ground, along with a number of other relatively minor changes, will hopefully allow the race to start with the minimum of fuss and be as fair to all runners as one could expect from a 40 runner race.

“It also recommended that we move to a similar system that operates at the Cheltenham Festival, where starting is alternated between the Senior Starter and his Deputy. A consequence of that is that Sean McDonald will be starting the race this year.”

For more information please contact Paul Struthers, PR Manager, on 020 7189 3862 or 07966 590105.

7th February 2008

Notes for Editors:

1. There are 21 starters in the BHA’s Starting Department.

2. Sean McDonald is a former jockey and began working as a starter in 1993, having previously worked in the Race Planning Department at Weatherbys.

3. Grand National Review Group recommendations:

GRAND NATIONAL START: Recommendations of the Grand National Review Group


1. The chase/hurdle divider rails to be removed from the start area to allow horses the whole width of the start for circling prior to the start.

2. The marker poles to be situated 20 yards back from the tape with the Starter’s Rostrum positioned in line with the poles. The Rostrum to be high enough to allow the Starter to see across the whole field.

3. The marker poles to be higher to allow jockeys in the centre of the field to see them. In addition, a sand line to be laid on the ground between the two poles, giving jockeys a definitive line on the ground that must not be crossed before the race is started.


4. The jockeys to receive a briefing on security aspects of the race arrangements in the Jockeys Changing Room.

5. Tongue ties to be fitted as late as possible prior to horses leaving the parade ring. If a tongue tie comes loose it cannot be replaced at the start.

6. The parade format to be altered so as to minimise the effect of horses that have been released, on horses that are still parading in the opposite direction in front of the of the stands.

7. A maximum of two assistants per horse to be allowed in the start area, and they must be identifiable with armbands.

The Start

8. The Starter for the Grand National to rotate between the Senior Starter and his Deputy of the team on an annual basis.

9. The speaker system to continue to be used by the Starter.

10. The Starter to mount his rostrum on arrival at the start and leave the girthing up to his assistants.

11. The Starter to give the field a “goggle shout” as with all other NH races.

12. The Starter should not allow the start to be compromised for a minority of the field if the majority are happy to go.

13. The race to continue be started by tape, even if the first attempt to get the field away has failed.

Breaches of Rules

14. Where a jockey disobeys the Starter and can be identified he should be put in front of the Stewards regardless of whether other unidentified jockeys have also disobeyed the Starter.

15. Penalties to be increased so as to be sufficient deterrent to jockeys.