Racing: New jump starts on Club agenda

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The Independent Online
AS THE Jockey Club begins to discuss ways of avoiding a repetition of Saturday's void race it is sure to take particular interest in methods employed in other countries to start jump races, writes John Cobb.

Starting stalls are used in Australia and the United States, but the ones which work efficiently on the Flat in this country would not be wide enough to accommodate larger, National Hunt horses. The stalls might also provide a needless source of irritation to the participants in races where an even break is really not as essential as on the Flat.

And while most races on the Flat do not return to the starting point, most jump races do and in many cases there would be a necessity to move the stalls before the horses reappeared. It is not difficult to envisage the towing tractor failing to start and a far worse calamity than anything that happened on Saturday occurring.

Building chutes, or sidings, in which to place the stalls would be financially demanding when one considers the number of different starting points for races on Britain's varied jumps circuits.

In Australia, the starter can sound a hooter when a false start happens. He also shows a flag to an assistant 100 metres down the track, who waves down the runners in just the same way as in the first false start on Saturday.

The use of a hooter was experimented with in Britain 10 years ago but dismissed as it frightened the horses. Trials with flashing lights were deemed equally futile as jockeys could not pick up the signals when racing in bright sunlight.

In Ireland and France the systems employed are almost identical to those that have been in use in Britain for so long, although the French use a stronger, elastic, three-strand gate instead of the flimsy tape that failed on Saturday.

Around the world race-starting systems still rely on men under a different flag.

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