Racing: Aintree is haunted by memories of start fiasco

There will be glorious recollection at Aintree a week tomorrow, when the Grand National is run 30 years after Red Rum launched his legend at the expense of a gasping Crisp.

There will be glorious recollection at Aintree a week tomorrow, when the Grand National is run 30 years after Red Rum launched his legend at the expense of a gasping Crisp.

There is another anniversary though, another to raise the gasps, when we remember a decade ago and the incompetence of the void National. That was the day of the 150th running of the race, the afternoon of two false starts, broken tape and pandemonium.

The bête noire of the occasion became Ken Evans, the flag man who failed to wave his recall flag. A name better recalled, however, is that of the starter, Captain Keith Brown, who rather disturbed some of the combatants by eating an apple as the temple fell around him. He never officiated at another National.

Dignity never got going that Saturday but seven horses completed the course, led home by the other famous names from that day, John White and Esha Ness.

Capt Brown at one stage suggested the race could be re-run, with the nine beasts who had not jumped off a second time having it between themselves. Fortunately for him, Merseyside Police were well represented. He was later able to observe: "It was bound to happen one day and it just happened that I was in charge at the time."

There could even be some truth in his assertion as the subsequent Connell Report signposted several changes to the great race. The cancellation of the National was the most serious repercussion and there are now rules which make voiding less likely.

If all riders take an incorrect course, for example, but do not gain an advantage, a result can be allowed to stand. In addition, championship or major races can be re-run.

The "grey gate" at Aintree has been replaced by a new starting apparatus and, at major meetings, marker poles are installed 10 yards from the tape and riders must return there if instructed by the starter.

This though was was the arrangement for racing's latest if not so disastrous starting fiasco, when all but one of the riders in the Champion Hurdle were warned about their eagerness to get on with the race.

Simon Morant, the starter on that opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, seemed to want the Champion Hurdle field lined up like Tiller girls. The crowd, as well as the jockeys, grew restless.

The stewards later cautioned the riders and threatened to fine them in case of a repetition. Only Tony Dobbin on the bolted down Hors La Loi escaped censure.

The potentially ominous booking for next Saturday is that Morant, who has done the job for eight of the last nine Nationals, will again be on the rostrum. He should not look to David Nicholson for a commendation. "The Aintree starter Simon Morant," the former trainer once said, "couldn't start a race for white mice."

There are others without the hugest amount of confidence in the man. Michael Caulfield, the secretary of the Jockeys' Association, believes Morant should own up to his culpability at the outset of the Champion Hurdle.

"Whether it's the start of the Champion Hurdle or the Olympic 100m final there is a bit of tension. Jockeys, like athletes, are almost anticipating the start," Caulfield said yesterday. "Sometimes there is a breakdown or imbalance between the jockey and official. That is what happened at Cheltenham.

"The starter was fairly anxious and tense, and the jockeys were keen to get the best possible start. People say they have got two miles to sort themselves out so the start is not important. But it is. You can't be out of position or miss the pace of the race.

"It certainly wasn't a great start to that particular race. It was poor. The jockeys accepted their role in it and I think the starter must as well."

Now we must hope that was an isolated misjudgement. "The great variable here is that we're dealing with animals, not boats or cars," Caulfield added. "But it's not the most complicated thing in the world and there is not too much technique attached to it. It's purely about a relationship, a balance and respect. When that is slightly askew we've seen what can happen.

"It is the Jockey Club's responsibility to make sure they employ the right man on the right day. They have to pick the right team for the championship races."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Internal Project Manager - Business Analyst, Financial Services

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the best known and most pr...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer
 SQL, C#, VBA, Linux, SQL Se...

.NET Developer

£650 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer ASP.Net, C#.net, WCF, WPF, .N...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment