The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) have today announced a three-month trial of adjusted starting procedures for jump races.
From 5 October until 31 December, if there is an initial false start in any jump race, runners will be permitted one more attempt at lining up and approaching the tapes at a walk/jig-jog, rather than immediately reverting to a standing start.
If the second attempt at starting the race also results in a false start then the third attempt will be made by standing start.
The proposed adjustments to the procedures were developed by the BHA in collaboration with the PJA and included PJA Board members jump jockeys including Richard Johnson, Brian Hughes, Tom Scudamore and Page Fuller, and Safety Officers Sean Quinlan and Will Kennedy.
The decision to look at the procedures was made following the Cheltenham Festival in March, at which there was a high proportion of races which resulted in false starts. The objective is to try to reduce the number of races which are started by standing start.
The trial will provide the opportunity to assess the initial premise for reverting immediately to a standing start after a false start, namely that once a false start has occurred it is more likely that any further attempts to start the race will also result in a false start due to horses potentially becoming more agitated or excitable.
It will also allow consideration of any races where two false starts occur, followed by a standing start, in terms of how long the process takes from start to finish and whether any resulting delays are acceptable to participants and customers.
Brant Dunshea, Chief Regulatory Officer for the BHA, said:
“On the whole the procedures for starting jump races which we introduced in 2014 continue to work well, and have since that time, led to a significant overall reduction in the total number of false starts and breaches of the starting rules by jockeys. However, we appreciate that standing starts can present challenges and if they can be avoided, we should look at solutions to achieve that.
“This trial will allow us to balance up the potential delays that come with multiple false starts against the benefits of seeing fewer races started from a standing position.
“I’m grateful to the PJA and the jockeys we have worked with on this, I also appreciate the input from other stakeholders such as the Horseracing Bettors Forum for their input. We’ll aim to assess the data from the trial on an ongoing basis and make a decision at the end of the trial as to whether it is something we will make permanent”.
Paul Struthers, Chief Executive of the PJA, said:
“Our jump jockeys were very happy with our starting procedures and have an excellent working relationship and level of trust with BHA’s team of Starters. The only complaint was the immediate reversion to a standing start following a false start and this trial provides us with a great opportunity to see if giving the start a second chance reduces the number of standing starts.
“If it does, that will be excellent news for owners, trainers and bettors and if doesn’t, or if other issues arise, at least we’ve tried.”
Champion Jump Jockey Brian Hughes said:
”I trust the starters with their current decision making. However, some races can be lost at a standing start, with your horse being out of position which compromises everyone involved including the owner and betting public. I fully support the initiative, and hope that in the longer term, once a second start is called that it proves fairer for all participating.”