Racing: Flag day for Flat racing

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The Independent Online
IT was nowhere near Aintree proportions, but by previous standards a false start at Hamilton yesterday was diabolical. Over-hasty jockeys set off in the second race without even waiting for the starter, John Leech, to finish climbing his rostrum.

Fortunately there was a man in a white coat, Dick Hamilton, the recall assistant, 150 yards up the track to wave a red flag and restore order.

This was a Flat meeting, but for this and two other races on the same card, starting stalls were dispensed with because wheels were sticking in ground saturated by heavy rain. So Leech resorted to a flag start.

'I was still about two steps from the top of the rostrum when the jockeys decided to set off,' Leech said. 'I immediately shouted, 'No way]' You couldn't really call it a false start, it was more jockey anticipation. My flag wasn't raised, so the runners weren't even under orders.'

Hamilton, attired in white on Jockey Club instructions, stood his ground, alerted the riders to the error and the runners returned to post for a more orderly departure.

There is, however, to be no rerun of the 1993 Grand National, it was confirmed yesterday. The Jockey Club's race planning committee said: 'To restage the race outside its traditional time slot would devalue it and there is strong evidence that the fears that a rerun would be a pale reflection of the real thing are well founded.'

Following the defeat of Zafonic, the leading light of Khalid Abdulla's 2,000 Guineas aspirations, more attention became focused yesterday on two darker horses in the same ownership, Placerville and Wharf.

Both are trained by Henry Cecil and have impressed work-watchers at Newmarket. When the British classic trials start with next week's Craven meeting at Newmarket, their performances will be eagerly anticipated. 'We are keeping our options open,' Grant Pritchard-Gordon, Abdulla's racing manager, said yesterday.

But it is thought that Wharf will run either in the Craven Stakes on Thursday or the Greenham Stakes at Newbury the following Saturday. Should Wharf miss the Craven, then Placerville could deputise. The Fielden Stakes, on the same card, is an alternative for Placerville.