Why did the starter not call a false start? That is surely the key to the unmitigated cold bloodbath experienced by punters when odds-on favourite Flyfirstclass’s gate opened late in the third race at Clairwood.
It is as clear as daylight that stall-gate 7 opened, or was bashed open, a good few seconds after the rest of the field,and even though champion jockey Anton Marcus got the Craig Eudey runner into a challenging position a few lengths off the pace, his fate had been sealed.
And where else was the starter looking, if not directly at the front of the stalls? The errant gate was only just over halfway from the rail in the 13 horse field.
And the Stipes really had little choice to take the action that they did of declaring the favourite a non-runner. The rules are quite clear:
61.5.10 FAULTY STARTING STALLS OR INTERFERENCE BY A HANDLER
184.108.40.206 Should the starter consider that through any faulty action of the starting gates or
from any other cause, a fair start has not been effected, he may declare a “no
start”. Should the starter not declare a “no start”, the SB may, after a hearing,
declare any HORSE, which was impeded at the start by a front gate not opening,
a non-runner provided that a horse which is ultimately declared first, second, third
or fourth in a race by the judge shall not be declared a non-runner.
This not only led to a 60% deduction at the Bookies on winning bets, but many Place Accumulator punters were left holding worthless tickets as the back-up tote favourite, Sun Bay, ran a dismal race and out of the places.
As in so many cases in life, every end result suits a different sector. Had the race been declared null and void, would it have been fair to the connections who ended up earning stakes? Most definitely not. It was eventually won in impressive style by the Mogok first-timer Wild One under Keagan De Melo. Jeff Freeman trains the Scott Brothers-bred 3yo.
The punters who survived the Place Accumulator opener,were also doubtless quite happy with the outcome – until it possibly comes to bite them one day.
The Clairwood starting stalls were in the spotlight as recently as this past Sunday where the third race, the Kinmount Stud FM 64 Apprentice Handicap (F & M) run over 1000m was delayed by high jinx at the start.
The official Stipes report advised that ‘the start of the 3rd Race was delayed as a result of a number of the gates opening for no apparent reason. All horses were unloaded. A fault was discovered with the battery which had to be replaced. The gates to be re-tested before loading could recommence.’
We are not out to open a can of conspiracy theory worms, and we don’t even know if it was the same bank of stalls that was utilised for the third race today, but was it good enough to have just left the incident as is on Sunday?
We are not suggesting a commission of enquiry, but what would prevent a person with malicious intent from rigging and fiddling with the equipment? Or is the equipment even up to acceptable standard? This is a racecourse that is scheduled to close in the short-term.
And let’s face it, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The Stipes were dishing out the pain everywhere on Sunday.
But we never hear of race-day officials being censured.
Experienced accomplished jockeys like Sean Cormack and Alec Forbes picked up week holidays for ‘failing to ensure that their mounts didn’t cause interference.’
Now let’s consider these offences. Besides being intrinsically dangerous, one would assume from the ridiculous punishment that they are not repeat offenders nor were the offences deemed to be premeditated.
Will the Clairwood Starter be hauled in before a Board to explain his action and failure to take the correct action?
We doubt it. Horseracing can ill afford to lose support. The rules and the general attitude to the customer needs urgent revisiting.