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Starts – ‘Trainers Need To Come To Party’

Progress being made

After a few controversial starting stall incidents recently, this crucial aspect of any horse race has come under even more scrutiny than normal.

A number of National Horseracing Authority (NHA) role-players were consulted to get their impressions of the state of play regarding starting procedures.

The current system of loading by ascending draw was implemented in 2013, starting with that season’s juvenile crop.

The starter still has discretion to make different arrangements for known problematic horses.

“This system has worked fairly well, and means that any suggestion of anyone being favoured has largely been removed. Before horses that were well schooled were potentially prejudiced by going in early, while the badly schooled went in later,” says NHA Racing Executive Arnold Hyde.

“Standards of tractability have improved, and we have also become stricter in taking away starting stall certificates for problem horse. This has placed the onus more on the trainer to present his horse in a tractable state”.

In terms of tractability, Cape Town head starter Fred Bosman says trainers need to come to the party more.

Starting stalls

“It’s the trainer’s responsibility to bring the horse to races well-schooled, but a few seem to want to make it the starter’s duty to school their horse”.

As chief stipe Ernie Rodriguez points out “you can get a different animal on a race day, when the adrenalin is flowing. The horse may be calm when getting its starting stall certificate, but different when it’s in a real race situation”.

Malan du Toit

“There are two stages – getting them in, and the standing in the pens. The bottom line is the system needs to give every horse a fair chance, irrespective of the betting”.

Stipe Cecil van As is a former jockey, and was also a starter for quite a few years, so has seen the process from many sides.

“I’ve been up there,” he said. “The flag man at the back plays an important role. It’s very important that he and the starter communicate well, and have a good relationship.”

A welcome NHA initiative recently was when ‘horse whisperer’ Malan Du Toit held a Saturday morning workshop to teach some of his techniques to Durban handlers.

The plan is for this to be repeated at all centres, which must lead to the skill set of all our handlers being improved.

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8 comments on “Starts – ‘Trainers Need To Come To Party’

  1. Manfred Rohwer says:

    There seems to so much hype about bringing a Johannesburg based ‘horse whisperer’ to Durban to teach the handlers when we have a brilliant man in Glynn Redgrave who himself is a handler and works with most horses in Summerveld and Ashburton and himself is an established horse rider. Let the racing channels give him some coverage, both Lafferty/ Goodman and Michelle Wing shows.

  2. Bert says:

    The worst horses and stalls are at Flamingo Park but its the best start with full fields in most races. How do they get it right most meetings?

    No matter how much schooling trainers, jockeys and grooms do with their runners, an ignorant starter and his team can nullify any progress made

    Any loading process that takes more than 2 mins is flawed. At the end if the day the starter is the one giving out the certificates and grading therefore any delays on race day are his own doing


    1. Brian says:

      Flamingo also gets great fields has great racing and can teach the big centres on how to run a race meeting.

      1. Johann Liebenberg says:

        Be kind to Flamingo gents. If we had more than two races per month we would be in a financial position to upgrade facilities. Like Brian said we have very good meetings here. I think we are doing well with what we have.

  3. Brent Lezar says:

    The workshop was a great idea and I think a follow up session should be held with more trainers involved so we can all work together to ensure we are all on the same page when it comes to loading their horses. Thanks to Malan for a great session. – ( Handler KZN )

  4. Ian Jayes says:

    Sound, confident well-schooled horses load on demand. It is not rocket-science.

  5. James Goodman says:

    I agree MANFRED. But the Nha employ the start officials and as I have said previously the head starter is so inflexible and the officials back him. Glynn is a great asset but not given the opportunity to be used to the best of his ability.
    There are also a number of trainers whose horses are not schooled properly and they are serial culprits. They should be sanctioned.

  6. Pieta says:

    I would like to see the stats on the number of horses arriving at the start with pulled shoes……no mention of that…..or don’t they have any influence?

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