In an age when we can beam pictures from Mars to any location on earth, is it possible that we still cannot effectively communicate two words over a matter of metres to thirteen jockeys?
The Arlington third race last Friday saw a false start become a genuine start in the space of under ten minutes. And a whole bunch of jockeys are on their way to the ear specialist.
I don’t believe this particular case ended badly at the end of the day, but Friday’s Place Accumulator opener, the Maiden Plate run over 1300m went final with most punters oblivious to the behind-the-scenes activity.
In a nutshell, a false start was declared, thirteen jockeys didn’t hear it and completed the race. The Stipes used their discretion in terms of the rules and declared the race legitimate.
So no loss in betting turnover, the owners received their stakes cheques, the jockeys their commissions and we all live happily ever after? Maybe, till next time.
I have chatted to both Phumelela Executive Patrick Davis and the National Horseracing Authority’s CEO Designate, Denzil J Pillay, who were both most willing and forthcoming to answer our enquiries.
Patrick Davis explained that the NHA ensured the integrity of the show put on by Phumelela and that the operator had played no part in the process on the day itself related to any decisions made on the race in question.
I also asked a retired jockey to give us his views on the incident.
It appears that George Uren’s rather moderate 4yo gelding It’s In The Air, drawn on the wide outside and ridden by apprentice Teaque Gould was the villain of the peace.
The Stipes Report confirms this:
IT’S IN THE AIR broke through stalls, re-loaded, thereafter broke the front gate as the start was effected and a No Start was called.
In terms of procedure, the starter hit the false start button which triggers a siren.The only problem is that Keanan Steyn, riding Forest Spectrum, drawn at 7, is the only jockey in the race who appears to have heard the siren. Is he thus the only jockey in that race with 100% hearing?
The Stipes Reported further:
A race review was called into the start of this race as the Starter declared a No Start due to IT’S IN THE AIR breaking the front gate prematurely. All riders were brought before the Board and questioned. They stated they were unaware that a No Start had been called and had raced as normal. Jockey K Steyn, the rider of FOREST SPECTRUM, stated he heard the siren and eased his mount for several strides passing the 1200 metre mark and continued to race. The Board was of the opinion that the result had not been affected and acted in terms of NHA rule 61.5.11 and overruled the Starters decision.
My retired jockey consultant was adamant that the system was intrinsically flawed and said that the fact that only one jockey had heard the siren did not mean that the rest were ‘deaf or playing silly buggers or just ignoring it’.
He suggested that with a strong headwind blowing on the day, the gates crashing open, the swishing friction of the jock’s silks and the pounding hooves, that he was not surprised that the system failed.
“The problem is that most of the folk making the rules and adjudicating the deviations don’t know the front from the back of a horse. The National Horseracing Authority should not be going forward without including a jockey on the procedures panel and they need to work on this-it is going to happen again. So they are now puzzled as to why the jockeys ‘played deaf’? I will tell you simply that they didn’t hear it – there is nothing more sinister or complex behind this debacle than that!” he laughed.
On taxed whether he believed this was the most effective system to communicate a false start, NHA CE Designate Denzil Pillay added that the use of a siren has been an effective means of communicating this eventuality for many years and he confirmed that the same system was used nationally at all tracks.
On questioned what happened to the flag man, he said this official was done away with more than 5 years ago. This appears to be in line with international practise.
There appears to be a discrepancy with the positioning of the siren. Apparently this was moved some 50 m away from the stalls a few years ago when a similar incident occurred. A retired jockey that I spoke to suggested it was not 50m from the stalls but within ‘two strides of the jump.’
The Starter operates the siren and I asked Mr Pillay why the starter didn’t utilise a loudhailer as a back-up : “The noise made when the gates open would drown the Starters voice. The starter has to press the start button and then if there is a false start, the false start button is pressed. The loud hailer is not a practical solution.”
Asked whether the fact that 13 of the 14 jockeys had not heard and thus not responded was not a categorical verdict that the system in place did not work effectively, Mr Pillay responded as follows: “ There is no explanation as to why the jockeys never heard the siren as the people at the starting stalls heard it. The review of the race gave no indication that the jockeys had heard the siren except for the one jockey. All others rode their horses as is done under normal circumstances. According to the Chief Stipe in PE, the wind was blowing very strongly and he says this could have contributed to the jockeys not hearing the siren. This does not mean that the system is ineffective, but suggests that we need to review the system as it may not be as effective in extreme conditions.”
It has been a bad week at the starting stalls in Southern Africa. Tellytrack viewers on Sunday were treated to Borrowdale commentator Adrian Nydam screaming at the starter to load the horses into the correct stalls at the start of the fourth race.
It seems ludicrous that this would be necessary and it is highly commendable of the commentator’s alert approach. One would think that the starter would have that aspect sussed?
Striker Nose It
The legendary Piere ‘Striker’ Strydom bounced back at his very first ride after sinus surgery to win the second race at the delayed Turffontein meeting on Sunday.
Strydom, riding Red Sox, for Geoff Woodruff, bemoaned the fact that he was riding ‘so many false favourites’ on the day but jokingly warned his colleagues to up their game. “The difference is that I can breathe now,” he warned.
Wiese Flying High
Port Elizabeth trainer Mitch Wiese pulled no punches in the Arlington seventh race interview this past Monday. His 4yo Peintre Celebre gelding Sandy Celebre had just won his second race from three starts in the MR 70 Handicap over 1000m and Wiese declared his target to be the Cape Flying Championship.
A horse with behavioural issues at the start and formerly with Mike De Kock, winning jockey Wayne Agrella apparently declared this ‘one of the best’ he has ridden and indicated that he could have won by ten lengths. Time will tell.
Zim Racing Awards
While not very well publicised in these parts, Zimbabwe Racing also honours its achievers on Saturday evening at 18h30. The venue is the Mashonoland Owners and Trainers in the Ipi Tombe Bar.
If you are in the vicinity and keen to attend, please contact Sheldene Chant on firstname.lastname@example.org