Men in white coats under orders at Aintree

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FOUR MONTHS after the void Grand National, horseracing's most embarrassing moment, a plan to avoid a repetition was revealed yesterday. It involves extra men in white coats, bigger, Day-Glo flags and a car to chase runners, writes Richard Edmondson.

A racing industry working party, chaired by Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, had sought to prevent another fiasco like that of 3 April, when jumping's greatest day suffered two false starts and a void race after several horses completed two laps of Aintree. Starting methods in Ireland, France, Japan, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong and New York were considered, but it was concluded that British is best.

'There has been much public speculation about the feasibility of incorporating electronic devices such as horns or flashing lights to provide a fail-safe starting and recall system,' Brigadier Parker Bowles said. 'But those overseas turf authorities which have used them reported they were not always successful and were open to sabotage.'

Yesterday's 34-page report concluded that the 1994 National will be best served by two advance flag men, in white coats, waiting up the course with Day-Glo yellow fluorescent ensigns (3ft by 2ft 6in) to bring a false start to jockeys' attention. (Brightness has a role at the start too; runners will be called up to an imaginary line between two red and white candy-stripe poles.)

Lurking down the course will be a 'stop man', to be called on if the field ignores the flag men. If he, too, cannot halt the charge, his brief is to follow by car. Brigadier Parker Bowles said: 'What happened this year will never happen again.'

Faith in flag-waving, page 37