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Race Starting and On Track Protocols

NZ Harness Trainers & Drivers Assn
Published by Pete Cook in News · 22 October 2020
Recently, representatives of the Trainers & Drivers Greater Canterbury Branch, met with RIU Stewards and the two Canterbury starters, to discuss ways of improving race starts in the area.
Those present agreed that there were a number of aspects that contributed to poor starts, some of which could be solved by horses being presented on the track on time. Association members requested that this be policed more stringently by the RIU, involving trainers or drivers who fail to comply, bearing in mind that discretion should be given for a legitimate reason for lateness. The late presentation on the track often led to horses using extended time for warm-ups and affixing of gear, which had a domino effect on the whole pre-race action and caused races to run late, thereby affecting television coverage, particularly in Australia.
The Association requested that the installation of a countdown clock on the mobile barrier be considered, and possibly other similar clocks in the Addington stabling area, so that everyone knew exactly how much time they had before race time.
Protocols governing  parading behind the mobile were discussed, and it was decided to trial the scenario that the gate wings be extended two minutes out from the start time with all drivers in their carts, then 60 seconds out horses should be circling in number order and in close proximity to each other, with no subsequent speaking between drivers. The speed of the mobile will be held steady early in the score up to enable all horses to be on it at the candy pole.
The HRNZ Conference Remit enforcing horses to trial in either of the two starting methods, mobile or stands, before they are entered in a race, was welcomed by all present. In addition, horses will no longer be permitted to have practice behind the mobile gate on race night, prior to the start. It was agreed that the time for practice was at trials or workouts.
A request was to be made to Trial organisations to combine horses into realistic size fields where possible, both in qualifying and/or other events. It was agreed that one or two horse fields were of no use in educating a horse that, theoretically could line up in a full field race the following week.
Other issues covered at the meeting included the possibility of standardising the front line limits on all New Zealand tracks without reducing the field sizes, the moving of start points at Ashburton and Timaru closer to the beginning of a straight, thereby allowing a longer run into the first bend, the marshalling of horses prior to standing starts, the use of the back barrier behind horses prior to the start, and the viability and issues surrounding having two full time starters in the greater Canterbury region due to the number of meetings.
The meeting was advised that there were still drivers warming up the wrong way on the inside half of the track, and it was agreed that this dangerous practice should desist. Options surrounding warm up procedures were discussed, along with a proposed draft of race starting regulations which was presented by the RIU, who were working towards these being removed from the Rules and included in Regulations for easier adjustment in the future.
Those present felt that this meeting was overdue and hopefully, with the co-operation of all concerned the current issues can be resolved, and the ‘blame game’ can be eliminated.
Pete Cook


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