Club strengthens starting-gate procedures
Jockey Club officials have introduced a new layer of procedures behind the start in an effort to ensure last week's "barrier fiasco", when two horses jumped from the wrong gates, is the last of its kind.
Chief Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, executive director of racing Bill Nader and chief steward Kim Kelly were absent when the incident occurred but have confirmed the officiating stewards acted correctly in the declaration of correct weight, after determining neither horse was advantaged or disadvantaged, and in fining jockeys Brett Prebble and Alvin Ng Ka-chun $5,000 each.
With a review of starting procedures and the details of this incident having now been investigated, Kelly and Nader announced new measures are in place to guard against a repetition and the barrier handlers involved with Simple and Frederick Engels will be subject to disciplinary action.
When asked if the handlers were still with the club, Kelly said both were "still employed by the club, although the handler in charge of Simple did not work today."
Kelly said responsibility did not fall on the shoulders of the starter or assistant starter, who had many other duties at the start, but on jockeys and on gate handlers. Each handler was given a sheet every meeting, assigning them to one horse each race and part of their duties was to check that horses went into the right gate. The inquiry into the mix-up has recommended action against the handlers, but a more severe punishment for Simple's assigned handler after video footage showed he had consulted his list, with the correct draw marked, on four separate occasions - both before and after placing the horse into the wrong gate - and not corrected the error or informed anyone else of the mistake.
"While management was previously of the view that the loading procedures were robust, given that they've been in place since 1995 without incident, the fact that this happened proved that a better system could be in place," said Kelly.
Starting with last Wednesday's Happy Valley card, the club has enhanced the existing start procedure, with each gate handler now required to call his horse's barrier number to the deputy starter as he brings the horse up, and the deputy starter to confirm the correct draw number has been called. Another deputy starter will then have the task of checking and cross-checking all horses are in the right stalls.
"Jockeys have been reminded that the onus falls on them to be in the right gates, and with these added checks and balances, I think we've done the best we can to make sure nothing like this ever happens again," said Nader.