Jockey Club Announces Proposals to Tackle Problems at the Start
Published: 19 September 2001
The Jockey Club today announced a range of proposals aimed at reducing problems at the start of Flat races and increasing the number of races off on time.
Tony Goodhew, Director of Racecourse Services said: “For a variety of reasons problems at the start have become an increasing concern this year. We believe that there are a number of areas which must be addressed and that if taken together they should provide long term solutions to what have been long running and increasing problems. We have made recommendations on the Stalls themselves, stalls training, the number of handlers and off times. It is clear that a number of the difficulties are related to the length of time taken up by the loading process, and it is our view that a significantly smoother and quicker load would produce very positive results.
“It is perverse that well schooled and well behaved horses suffer under the present starting arrangements, while those horses with behavioural problems receive special treatment. If we can reduce the length of time horses are required to wait in the stalls and provide more horse friendly stalls, the result should be a reduction in the number of problems at the start, as well as an increase in the number of races off on time.”
Following a meeting at which the matter was discussed in detail, the Jockey Club’s Regulatory Committee have agreed the following recommendations:-
The Jockey Club’s General Instructions be amended to increase the number of stalls handlers on duty each raceday from the start of the 2002 Flat turf season.
The RCA be asked to make proposals to the Jockey Club by 1st March 2002 for the design, operation and phased introduction of new stalls on all racecourses as soon as is practicable.
From April 2002 racecourse stewards should automatically enquire into any race that is more than 3 minutes late to start.
A review of the procedures and penalties for dealing with horses requiring special handling; the introduction of a stalls training module on the Trainers’ Course and a review of the concept of providing centralised schooling to stalls facilities.
Stalls Handlers & Behavioural Problems: Since the last formal review of the issues in 1996, the number of horses recorded by the Jockey Club Starters as having behavioural problems has continued to increase. In 1998 the database recorded a total of 913 racecourse ‘criteria failures’, but by 2000 this figure had risen to 1,291 horses. The result is a self-perpetuating problem as the more horses there are requiring special treatment the more the stalls handlers are taken away from routine loading procedures. This results in a longer loading time which simply increases the chances of those horses already installed becoming fractious.
The Regulatory Committee recommends that the number of handlers be increased in order to facilitate and reduce the length of the loading process. It also recommends that a review be undertaken of the procedures for dealing with difficult horses at the start. Consideration may need to be given to withdrawing such horses more quickly and preventing those who continually cause problems from running.
Stalls Design: Obviously, the design of the stalls is also an important factor. It is accepted that there is more to the acceptability of a stalls design than just the basic dimensions. Colour, construction and frame design all play at part. A comparison of the dimensions of stalls used around the world shows that although those used in Britain do not have the smallest area, they are the shortest in terms of length. This results in many horses becoming uncomfortable in the stalls during the loading process. The longer the load the greater discomfort the horse experiences.
The Regulatory Committee recommends that the current 30 year old stalls should be replaced with an enlarged up to date design. To this end the RCA, who own RaceTech, the company responsible for the provision of starting stalls in Britain, have been asked to make proposals to the Jockey Club by 1st March 2002 for the design, operation and phased introduction of new stalls on all racecourses as soon as is practicable. They have agreed to form a working group to consult with interested parties as part of this process. Due to the scale of production needed to provide new stalls, and also the cost implications, the introduction of the revised design will have to be phased.
Off Times: During the 1990’s the Jockey Club, together with the RCA, made a concerted effort to reduce the number of late races. As a result between 1991 and 1997 the number of races actually started to time increased from 8.5% to 42.29%. However, since then there has been little improvement with the figure remaining around the 44-45% mark. Although the timings for each meeting are recorded and monitored, it has become clear that on the day of racing no one is taking responsibility for late races.
The Regulatory Committee recommends that racecourse stewards should auto-matically enquire into any race that is started more than 3 minutes late. As a result of their enquiries the stewards might want to speak to the Clerk of the Course, the Starter or a certain jockey or trainer and their findings would subsequently be published. This would enable the cause of any delay to be established soon after the race in question. In the majority of cases only an informal enquiry would be needed which should not result in further delays to racing.
September 19th 2001
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. STALLS HANDLERS – Currently, for field sizes of up to 20, Racetech are required to provide a team of 4 leaders, 4 pushers and a team leader. The Regulatory Committee have recommended that the number of ‘leaders’ be increased to 6. Furthermore, for fields over 20 there should be an additional ‘leader’ for every 3 extra runners and two additional ‘pushers’ for each additional 10 runners.
2. STALL DIMENSIONS
MM COMPARATIVE RATIO OF AREA
Present UK Stall 915 2,420 2,214,300 100%
Wolverhampton Design 1,000 2,600 2,600,000 117%
Steriline Standard (Australia) 902 2,451 2,210,802 100%
Steriline Extended (Australia) 902 2,600 2,345,200 106%
Santa Anita (USA) 1,143 2,692 3,076,956 139%
Hong Kong (Original) 920 2,578 2,371,760 107%
Longchamp (France) 800 2,600 2,080,000 94%
4. REASONS FOR DELAYS TO STARTS 2000 – SUMMARY
Total No of Races 7272
Total No of Reasons 2400 (33%)
Late to Reach Start 854 (36%)
Slow to Load/Line Up 476 (20%)
Horses Bolted/Tack Adjustments 227 (9%)
Horses Misbehaving 304 (13%)
Previous Race Late 230 (10%)
Slow to begin Loading 39 (1%)
Enquiry into Previous Race 54 (2%)
Others 217 (9%)
5. DEFINITION OF A RACECOURSE CRITERIA FAILURE
Criteria failures are recorded in the starters’ book. Characteristics of a criteria failure include:
1. Unruly in stalls, for example:
a) Breaks out or tries to go under front gate
b) Rears badly in stalls
c) Kicks out badly in stalls
d) Lies or sits down in stalls
2. Unruly outside stalls, for example:
a) Needs four pushers with or without a blindfold
b) Blindfolded and very reluctant
c) Kicks out badly
d) Generally unruly at the start
6. COST IMPLICATIONS FOR NEW STALLS