For more than a decade now, I’ve been present at meetings between various Trainers & Drivers Committees, and Starters and/or Stewards. Pretty much every time the subject of standing starts has been raised.
I suppose when you think about it, that’s not surprising because, whatever you do, that starting method is not an exact science, and never will be. Come to think of it, nor are mobiles and even gallopers leaving from a starting gate. These are live animals that we’re dealing with and, as we all know, each one has different ideas and manners.
However, at the aforementioned meetings, every time the subject was raised, accusations were made by officials that certain drivers were trying to anticipate the release of the barrier strand, and often causing problems for both the starter and other horses. (I have to admit to having a personal interest in this as, on more than one occasion, a horse I have an interest in has been disadvantaged by such happenings).
Of course, the other result of such actions is that the start is usually delayed and, with the congested programme of races these days, both coverage and turnover is affected.
At all of these discussions, the T&D representatives have all stressed that action should be taken against the perpetrators, in the presumption that, once they have been penalised the habit would cease. Until now, such suggestions have fallen on deaf ears, however this is about to change, with the following being circulated shortly:
Recently there have been several examples of standing start races running late because of horses approaching the barriers quicker than the general line or coming into contact with the barrier strand. This has resulted in drivers issued with warnings for delaying the start. After consulting with Harness Racing NZ regarding the adverse financial effect on the industry of races not running to time, RIB Stewards are formally advising that as of Monday the 23rd of August any driver who contributes to the start being delayed without valid explanation will likely be issued with a charge.
Chief Stipendiary Steward
Obviously, the Trainers & Drivers Assn. fully supports this move and hopefully standing starts, which are already under serious threat because Australian punters apparently only bet on the boring races that are so prevalent in their own Country, along with the connections of local horses, can at least be seen to be fair and even.