Following extensive discussions, the British Horseracing Authority is today announcing a range of new start related measures to be adopted in Flat races in the months ahead.
The main aim of these initiatives is to further promote flexibility, safety and efficiency at Flat Starts, whilst reducing the likelihood of having to withdraw runners that failed to load. In addition, the measures include a stall numbering initiative to promote international harmonisation as well as a proposal that will see punters’ stakes returned when a horse is palpably denied a run at the start and yet, for whatever reason, a false start was not triggered.
The new measures are as follows, with some being trialled on the All Weather from 1st January and others being introduced for the start of the Flat Turf season on the 30 March.
1. Loading Horses Riderless into Starting Stalls – trial commences 1 January 2011
The current Rule states that horses cannot be loaded unless they are mounted. However, Starters – at their sole discretion – and at any point during a normal load will now have flexibility to attempt to load a horse riderless. The rider would dismount, go to their stall and mount the dividing partition, ready to take control of the horse as it is led in;
2. Loading Certain Horses by Reversing into Stalls or with Front Gate Open – trial commences 1 January 2011
The current Rule does not allow for a horse to be loaded with the front gate open. However, for the AWT trial a horse (in specific circumstances) may now be reversed into a Stall, or loaded as normal but with the front gate open. The specific circumstances are:
– Prior arrangement with Starter;
– Horse is one “Starter’s Report” away from a 6 month ban;
– Horse has shown the ability to load as above through a previous Stalls Test;
– Trainer or representative is at start to carry out the process;
– Horse will be loaded first.
3. Leaving a Starting Stall Closest to Rail Vacant Where Possible – trial commences 1 January 2011
This has a number of practical benefits and will be trialled on the AWT at starts where there are no knock-on logistical/operational impacts. Benefits include: easier to load horse in stall number 1 and less likelihood of horse drawn 1 being squeezed against rail if bumped on leaving the stall.
4. Permitting flexibility on Number of Stalls Handlers in Exceptional Raceday Circumstances – trail commences 1 January 2011
The current BHA General Instructions stipulate a minimum of 11 stalls handlers and if, for whatever reason, this minimum number is not available a “flip” or flag start is used instead. However, there will now be scope for the raceday Stewards (with consultation) to authorise the retention of the stalls using fewer than 11 stalls handlers in exceptional circumstances e.g. adverse weather, handler injury, major traffic incident.
5. Altering Stalls Numbering Protocol at “Right Handed” Racecourses
Currently on all British racecourses the starting stalls are numbered in ascending order from left to right if you are looking through the stalls from behind. This practice applies regardless of whether the track races right handed or left handed. The only other racing jurisdiction which adopts this practice is Ireland. In all other jurisdictions left handed racecourses adopt this practice, however, right handed racecourses number their starting stalls in ascending order from right to left if you are looking through the stalls from behind.
From 30 March2011 (start of the flat turf season) Britain will change the manner in which the starting stalls are numbered on those racecourses which stage flat racing and are classified as right handed. No change will be made to racecourses classified as left handed. This change will see the starting stalls on the 14 racecourses listed below, all of which have been classified as right handed, being numbered in ascending order from right to left if you look through the stalls from behind.
The change in practice will be effective for all races, including those run on a straight course, run at these racecourses. The Clerk of the Course at each of these courses will continue to adopt their current practices in where they position the starting stalls on the track for races run over a straight course. Publications which make available draw statistics have been consulted and advise that they will be able to ‘flip’ their existing statistics so as they will maintain their relevance. Consultation has also taken place with the RCA, NTF, and PJA, who have all expressed their support for this change in the numbering of the starting stalls.
The racecourses which have been classified as right handed, due to the major bend being right handed when races are run around a turn, are Ascot, Beverly, Carlisle, Folkestone, Goodwood, Hamilton, Kempton, Leicester, Musselburgh, Newmarket (Rowley Mile and July Courses), Ripon, Salisbury, Sandown, and Windsor.
6. Declaring a Horse a Withdrawal Post – Race
Currently, all horses in the stalls are deemed runners as soon as the Starter starts a race, unless a) a false start is called or b) there is then a void race for whatever reason.
However, from 30th March 2011 in certain Flat start circumstances (e.g. gates do not open but Starter doesn’t see the incident) there will now be provision for the affected horse(s) to be retrospectively classified as a “withdrawal” by the Raceday Stewards. Consequently, bets on such horse(s) which have palpably lost all chance at the start will be fully refunded to punters and Rule 4 will also apply as applicable to winning bets.
NB: this new provision will not apply in cases where:
a) The gates open properly but the horse chooses to, for example, plant at the start, be fractious or take no real part; or
b) The gates open a split second after the rest of the field – an existing protocol will remain in this circumstance.
Jamie Stier, BHA Director of Raceday Operations and Regulation, stated:
“These initiatives are all about further improving flexibility, efficiency and fairness at the start and will hopefully make the start a less stressful situation for horses which are reluctant to load. We’ve consulted widely and the feedback has been really positive throughout.
“We have already spoken to the Association of British Bookmakers about the changes to the numbering of stalls and declaring a non-runner post-race and we need to be sure that both changes are properly communicated to punters, hence they won’t be introduced until the 30 March.
“Whether you’re an owner, trainer, rider or punter you’ll hopefully see the benefits at some point.”
Rupert Arnold, Chief Executive of the National Trainers Federation, said:
“The NTF Flat Committee discussed these measures with Jamie Stier. We were very supportive and further flexibility in the loading process is particularly welcome. It should make for fewer withdrawals and horse bans, which can only be a good thing for connections and the sport.”