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View Full Version : "Race" horse who won't load in the starting gate -- a question.



Wellspotted
Nov. 25, 2007, 08:28 PM
What do trainers (and racetrack management) do about a horse who consistently won't load in the starting gate, who holds up starts time after time? Is the horse allowed to just go on being entered? Does he have to start from outside the gate? Will he eventually be banned from tracks or from racing altogether? Is this always something that can be corrected, or would it be something that might cause the trainer to just give up and find another job for that horse?

Calamber
Nov. 25, 2007, 08:47 PM
The horse would be put on a "starter's list", and would have to be schooled in front of an official to prove it will load and break from the gate. It depends on the individual officials and tracks but they will not tolerate it for long. Soon the horse will be banned for life from that track and sometimes it will follow him/her to other tracks. They won't last long if they don't load and no, they will not allow the horse to run outside of a starting gate. Same goes for breaking from the gate or fractious activity while in the gate. Starting gate accidents are horrendous and everyone who works in and around the racetrack knows that.

JHUshoer20
Nov. 25, 2007, 08:48 PM
What do trainers (and racetrack management) do about a horse who consistently won't load in the starting gate, who holds up starts time after time? Is the horse allowed to just go on being entered? Does he have to start from outside the gate? Will he eventually be banned from tracks or from racing altogether? Is this always something that can be corrected, or would it be something that might cause the trainer to just give up and find another job for that horse?
If the horse wont load in spite of a whole gang of guys trying to throw him in the gate (this is why there are so many guys on the gate crew) he's scratched by the stewards.

The horse must then be re-schooled in the gate and re-certified and gate carded.

If this cannot be corrected and becomes a chronic problem then yes, the horse will be banned from racing.
George

Barnfairy
Nov. 25, 2007, 08:56 PM
Gate training is part of race training. Before a horse can ever race, it must earn its "gate card" -- in other words, the horse must prove first in training that it will load, wait quietly, and break cleanly.

There are definitely horses who never make it to racing, despite training, because they can't get their gate card. I know a mare who was just too claustrophobic; reared & flipped, then just wouldn't go in at all...no gate card for her.

Horses who manage to get their gate card but become consistently difficult and unsafe about loading in the gate can eventually get banned from that track. They can try to get their gate card elsewhere, but if the underlying issue isn't resolved the horse is destined to a repeat scenario.

Wellspotted
Nov. 25, 2007, 09:24 PM
Thank you all very much for your replies.

Barnfairy, I LOVE your signature line!

One of the riders at my barn has a purple-sparkle wand/jumping bat. Do you think that if we waved it just the right way and said the right thing it would clean out our horses' stalls?

dressagetraks
Nov. 25, 2007, 09:27 PM
I take it rules have changed over the years regarding this. I remember reading about horses long ago who started from outside the gate (War Admiral was one, I think). But that was ages ago.

Wonder what Man o' War would have thought of the gate if they'd had it in his time. He was apparently hell on wheels at the walk-up start. Can't imagine him being much better in the gate. Or maybe he would have, because jockeys back then would have probably ridden much differently at the post if an even start was guaranteed by all and you didn't have to strategize in getting position on the competition. OTOH, gates apparently didn't help War Admiral calm down much regardless of the rider, so maybe not.

For the sake of the assistants and starters, though, I definitely see the point in refusing to tolerate perpetual bad actors.

Barnfairy
Nov. 25, 2007, 09:46 PM
Gee thanks, Wellspotted. They just don't make wands like they used to. :no: Well, I suppose you could give the bespeckled bat a try and report back how you make out. ;)

I sort of wish TB racing would go back to walk-up starts. That practice was not without flaws...but it seems so much safer overall.

RioTex
Nov. 25, 2007, 09:51 PM
And I have one that lost his gate card for refusing to come out when the doors opened.

mintano
Nov. 25, 2007, 09:57 PM
I take it rules have changed over the years regarding this. I remember reading about horses long ago who started from outside the gate (War Admiral was one, I think). But that was ages ago.


War Admiral started from the gate in all of his starts except for the match race with Seabiscuit.

monicabee
Nov. 25, 2007, 10:00 PM
When races are longer, as in steeplechasing, it is not so critical that everyone leave at precisely the same second, as it might be in a sprint. Gates also require a lot of manpower to operate, making them expensive. So at steeplechase meets not held at large tracks there are no gates.

Incidentally, horses can also be banned for failure to leave the gate. I saw a horse who clipped heels and went down. He was uninjured physically, but clearly not mentally, as when he was entered in another race the following week, he refused to leave the gate. He did not just "dwell" in the gate, he simply balked. Tracks and bettors do not like this.

He was banned from the track (Aqueduct) for six months. He did eventually return to run elsewhere, I believe, although not with great success.

dressagetraks
Nov. 25, 2007, 10:23 PM
From Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century, published by Blood Horse, page 60:

". . . two weeks later (War Admiral) was assigned top weight of 130 pounds in the Widener Handicap, conceding from thirteen to twenty-nine pounds to his dozen rivals. He refused to be loaded into the starting gate and finally was sent away from outside the gate. He galloped home one and a half lengths in front."

Wellspotted
Nov. 25, 2007, 10:28 PM
I do love Dick Francis's descriptions of the start of steeplechases-- "cantering down to the start" -- sounds to me like a great way to start a race, and then just sort of looking for a position once you get there.

I remember some horse story (a Black Stallion book, maybe?) where the starter threatens to have one horse start outside the gate if his jockey can't get him quiet and loaded (but then those stories were set a long time ago now).

Barnfairy, I didn't mean to sound unsympathetic. I guess I'm still in my Thanksgiving Day frame of mind, left over from the Canadians' Invasion. I'll try the wand/crop tomorrow and let you know how it works. :winkgrin:

Speaking of Black Stallion books, do they still start harness races by having the horses trot/pace gathering speed behind a long gate mounted on a car?

2ndyrgal
Nov. 25, 2007, 10:44 PM
Yes, all standardbred races have a "pace car" starting gate. Usually a limo type car with big "wings" for the starting gate. Post positions are numbered and are started from just under racing pace. There is an official "starter" in the car that makes sure the horses are in the proper position. I can only imagine a harness race from a standing start. (insert shudder icon here)

Calamber
Nov. 25, 2007, 10:46 PM
Yes, the trotters and pacers are all brought along to a travelling gate mounted on a car and when their noses are all nearly touching the gate it folds back. The only way you could start horses and sulkies without a tremendous amount of confusion and collisions.

Calamber
Nov. 25, 2007, 10:50 PM
Monicabee, we had a horse in our stable when I was grooming who steadfastly refused to leave the gate. They paid $25,000 for him and never did get him started at Charles Town. Someone told me that the gates are smaller there and bigger horses are more prone to be claustrophobic in them. I do know he eventually left Charles Town, but never from the starting gate! He was gelded but I don't think he ever was any good at racing although he did eventually break at Laurel.

JHUshoer20
Nov. 25, 2007, 11:23 PM
World record holding losingest horse Zippy Chippy was also banned from all racing jurisdictions for refusing to leave the gate as well.

Last place to allow the old gelding to run was Northampton Fair in Massachusetts in '04 I believe.

Was only there because every other pari-mutual juridiction banned him. Retired winless but was a lovable old fella that was a pleasure for his connections to have in the barn.

Funniest thing about him was he developed a cult following as horses like him often do and every time he went out they bet him down to even money knowing full well he'd lose. Guess everybody wanted to be holding a ticket just in case he made history:)
George

olympicdreams04
Nov. 26, 2007, 12:19 AM
Oh little Zippy Chippy! He always makes me smile. One of my horses this year at FL won, got a very suspect bad test, and subsequently didn't start for some time. When he did start again, he made a fun new game of dwelling hardcore. 3, 4, 5 strides behind the other horses. After gelding and time on the farm, he came back and would finally leave the gate but only under duress. Finally, just before I left, I happened to be on another horse waiting to go in the gate while my horse breezed out of the gate. Only then did I notice the very obvious "cocking back" indicative of hind end problems. He's going to have a long warm winter off in FL and then maybe run at Tampa before he goes back to FL. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Drvmb1ggl3
Nov. 26, 2007, 12:50 AM
I do love Dick Francis's descriptions of the start of steeplechases-- "cantering down to the start" -- sounds to me like a great way to start a race, and then just sort of looking for a position once you get there.


Well most horses canter down to the start, flat or jump, gate or no gate.
But yes, tape or flag starts works like a charm 99.9% of the time, as there is no need for perfectly even start at distances of 2m+. But then you can end up with something like this infamous farce back in '93 (http://youtube.com/watch?v=Yx1VBgV8vo8).

JHUshoer20
Nov. 26, 2007, 01:32 AM
Well most horses canter down to the start, flat or jump, gate or no gate.
But yes, tape or flag starts works like a charm 99.9% of the time, as there is no need for perfectly even start at distances of 2m+. But then you can end up with something like this infamous farce back in '93 (http://youtube.com/watch?v=Yx1VBgV8vo8).
Wow that really was trashy. What ever happened with that race?
George

JHUshoer20
Nov. 26, 2007, 01:34 AM
Oh little Zippy Chippy! He always makes me smile. One of my horses this year at FL won, got a very suspect bad test, and subsequently didn't start for some time. When he did start again, he made a fun new game of dwelling hardcore. 3, 4, 5 strides behind the other horses. After gelding and time on the farm, he came back and would finally leave the gate but only under duress. Finally, just before I left, I happened to be on another horse waiting to go in the gate while my horse breezed out of the gate. Only then did I notice the very obvious "cocking back" indicative of hind end problems. He's going to have a long warm winter off in FL and then maybe run at Tampa before he goes back to FL. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Hope it works out, good luck to you.
George

Madeline
Nov. 26, 2007, 07:09 AM
Wow that really was trashy. What ever happened with that race?
George

It was declared no race.

All steeplechases in this country, big track or small, are started with a walk up start. Jump racing is a good second career for horses who will not enter/leave the starting gate.

Norcrest
Nov. 26, 2007, 08:49 AM
We have a mare here who refused to get in the gate at Penn Natl without a lot of persuasion and she was banned from running there, so we bought her as a broodmare. Not sure what happened since she had 8 previous starts and had even run 4th in a handicap in a 4 way photo at Hawthorne...she must have gotten hurt somewhere along the way and this was her way of protecting herself...but we did have problems loading her into the trailer and she was vary for a long time of walking into a stall (they are 12x12 and fairly bright)..we held off breeding her last season to get her over some of her quirks and she seems much better after spending the summer outdoors.

Manes&Tails
Nov. 26, 2007, 10:05 AM
http://www.chris-cox.com/

Chris Cox's in Mineral Wells, Texas filmed a video on this, it was very good and it worked on the race horse in the video. It was on RFD TV about 2 years ago.

Maybe you could get a copy of it or email him about it?

Pronzini
Nov. 26, 2007, 10:12 AM
As a slight spinoff from the topic, I'm using a QH trainer this year to break the baby and of course the gate is paramount to them so she's getting a lot of early gate work. Essentially every time she steps on and off his track, she has to walk through the gate so that by the time she gets to the real racetrack, she's been in a gate 400 times and its no big deal.

He told me once that he was watching a race at Los Alamitos and a horse he broke dumped his rider and ran off in the post parade clearly going back to the barn. The problem is that the gate was in his way. Instead barreling around it, he slowed down to trot, squeezed his way through one of the open stalls backwards and then took off again out the other side. He was really proud "That's my training.":)

olympicdreams04
Nov. 26, 2007, 11:20 AM
Down at Ocala West, walking through the gate on the way to the track is also standard practice with many of the horses.

AnotherRound
Nov. 26, 2007, 11:26 AM
http://www.chris-cox.com/

Chris Cox's in Mineral Wells, Texas filmed a video on this, it was very good and it worked on the race horse in the video. It was on RFD TV about 2 years ago.

Maybe you could get a copy of it or email him about it?

HT, what are you talking about on this site?

Manes&Tails
Nov. 26, 2007, 12:25 PM
HT, what are you talking about on this site?

I was thinking maybe you could use this site to get in contact with CC and get a copy of the video he did on getting race horses in the starting gate.

I saw him working with a horse with this problem on a show he did on RFD TV, and it worked.

hitchinmygetalong
Nov. 26, 2007, 12:57 PM
Who are you talking to H&T? No one here is having problems getting their horses in a starting gate. It's just a general discussion about it.

Thanks anyway.

Acertainsmile
Nov. 26, 2007, 01:14 PM
Yes, the trotters and pacers are all brought along to a travelling gate mounted on a car and when their noses are all nearly touching the gate it folds back. The only way you could start horses and sulkies without a tremendous amount of confusion and collisions.


I have always wondered what would happen if that car broke down?

Wellspotted
Nov. 27, 2007, 01:11 AM
Thanks, Hoot&Tick! I may try to see if I can get a copy of that tape. :)

As I'm the one who started the thread; and I apologize to you for the rudeness of some of the other posters who questioned your posts (as if they knew my reason for starting the thread). :rolleyes:

hitchinmygetalong
Nov. 27, 2007, 07:16 AM
My apologies also. I apparently missed something there. So sorry.

Manes&Tails
Nov. 27, 2007, 10:10 AM
My apologies also. I apparently missed something there. So sorry.


Thank you, I accept! Coth has made me a stronger person, things said on here don't bother me anymore! When I was new to Coth I could not understand the attacks and rudeness from some, but now I know they are not on the forum for the same reasons I am. Have a great holiday!:D

Thank you to you also Wellspotted!!!!;)

Wellspotted
Nov. 27, 2007, 04:43 PM
Thanks, Hoot&Tick, and thanks, Hitch. :)

I will say this for COTH--people do care and we do reply! I post occasionally on another BB--and sometimes get completely ignored. Or worse, you can see that your post has had ____ number of viewings but 0 replies. I think, what's the point? Then I post on COTH--and look out! EVERYONE has something to say! :D

It's kinda like going to the barn during the holidays. Would I prefer it be just me and the horses, with no other humans around, in which case I can visit, groom, treat, but won't ride? Or am I grateful when ANY of the other boarders show up, even the "irritants"--at least we're both horse people with brains and cell phones in case one of us has an emergency.

Hmm ... maybe I should go start yet another thread and do a survey on that very question. :lol: :lol: :lol:

Peace on earth ... peace on COTH!

Artful
Nov. 27, 2007, 08:39 PM
I have what may be a really stupid question, but here goes:
How did standardbred races start before the automobile was developed?
I'm guessing it was like the old walk-up start, only it was a (slow?) drive-up start?

JHUshoer20
Nov. 28, 2007, 12:09 AM
I have what may be a really stupid question, but here goes:
How did standardbred races start before the automobile was developed?
I'm guessing it was like the old walk-up start, only it was a (slow?) drive-up start?
Is not stupid but an excellent question which made me ask around and get an answer for you.

From what I'm able to gather they had a horse drawn gate in some places but in most places it was a walk up all in line then they would begin trotting as evenly as possible till a judge dropped a flag at a certain point which started the race.

Was a challenging thing for a driver to be watching the horses on both sides of him as well as the flag.

Supposedly the cars didn't come into common use till the '40s.

Very interesting. Thanks for bringing it up. Maybe somebody with more knowledge of that style of racing can expound upon this further?
George

doublete
Nov. 28, 2007, 12:18 AM
I was lucky enough to get one very fancy young gelding who had been ruled off every track up and down the east coast, starting in FL and working his way north. Why? Because he would not load in the gate. When I got him I had a lot of work to do with the horse trailer- he honestly would not load. Once I spent a long time patiently loading him he never posed a loading problem again- I was very tempted once to take him to the track and see if he would load in the starting gate but had put too much retraining effort in to him to risk him getting hurt.

Sometimes we can be lucky enough to be standing around when that really nice fancy horse gets ruled off, and since the horse has to be removed from the track immediately, offering the trainer a cheap dollar always works to get the horse into your own barn!

Blueshadow
Nov. 28, 2007, 12:25 AM
My experience with two training farms in CA was that young horses being broke to gallop and work were daily asked to walk or even jog through the gate on their way to the track. I guess that is no guarantee of how a horse will behave once it is at the racetrack, however. This is sometimes horse specific and sometimes trainer related. I watched a race last spring in which two horses from the same (small) trainer were both scratched at the gate... that's pretty sad. Might be interesting to study slow/bad gate breaks broken down by trainer sometime...

JHUshoer20
Nov. 28, 2007, 12:53 AM
Is not surprising it being a small trainer problem.

Not because their any better or worse but that their less likely to be able to get stalls at a track so need to ship in from the farm.

Being stabled at the track has its advantages with gate training because at the track there is always all kinds of help. At the farm this may not always be so even if they have a gate at the farm.
George

Wellspotted
Nov. 28, 2007, 02:09 AM
I seem to remember one of the Triple Crown races in a recent year--one horse held up the start for several minutes (at least it seemed a long time) because he/she wouldn't load.
Does anybody else remember this?

I was glad to read the Q&A about the harness racing starts. The only thing I've read about the early days was "One Man's Horse" in Born to Trot and I thought that in those early speed trials the horses trotted the course one at a time and were clocked--but that's all I know about it! Did harness racing go formal as early on as Thoroughbred racing did?

Drvmb1ggl3
Nov. 28, 2007, 04:21 AM
I have what may be a really stupid question, but here goes:
How did standardbred races start before the automobile was developed?
I'm guessing it was like the old walk-up start, only it was a (slow?) drive-up start?

They still don't use a vehicle for many trotting races in Europe, both harness (http://youtube.com/watch?v=GZVqMQ4NFyg) and mounted (http://youtube.com/watch?v=PBMQLy8Y2h8). A lot of their races do tend to be longer though, so like in jump racing a perfectly even start isn't as much of an issue.
For the shorter mile races they use a auto starting gate, like in the Elitloppet (http://youtube.com/watch?v=6SuJtinqi78) in Sweden.

ravenclaw
Nov. 28, 2007, 10:04 AM
I seem to remember one of the Triple Crown races in a recent year--one horse held up the start for several minutes (at least it seemed a long time) because he/she wouldn't load.
Does anybody else remember this?
I think I remember this. I wanna say it was Rock Hard Ten, but I could be wrong. He used to be bad about loading, but he got better as he got older.

Pronzini
Nov. 28, 2007, 11:06 AM
I think I remember this. I wanna say it was Rock Hard Ten, but I could be wrong. He used to be bad about loading, but he got better as he got older.

He also changed trainers between three and four. :winkgrin:

Laurierace
Nov. 28, 2007, 11:50 AM
He also changed trainers between three and four. :winkgrin:

Yeah and that was a good call on the owner's part. I was at the test barn after the preakness and the handler's were scared half to death of the horse. He wasn't even doing anything wrong. At one point they attempted to walk him into the wash stall and he planted his feet and refused to move. They did absolutely nothing to reprimand him or even to encourage him to go in. I must admit it took every fiber of my being not to rush over there and say "give me the damn horse" and make him march his ass in there! In the end they got special permission to take him outside for a bath so I did get to pet him, but I still think they are a bunch of weenies!

Artful
Nov. 28, 2007, 01:16 PM
Wow---thanks for all the info on the pacing/trotting starts! The idea of a horse drawn gate is intriguing---how would that work?
Would love to see some mounted trotting/pacing races from Europe, but I don't think they show them on TVG, do they? (unfortunately, we don't get HRTV, so that's not an option)
Am I remembering correctly that in an early 1970's Ky Derby (not CanoneroII Riva Ridge, or Secretariat), that there were so many starters, that several did start on the outside of the gate? (Maybe I'm wrong,I was a kid then)

Wellspotted
Nov. 28, 2007, 01:31 PM
What I've seen is that they will hitch a second gate to the main one and load the horses in it. That's all I ever remember seeing, and I've been watching the Derby most years since the '60s. But I, too, would like to know if anyone else remembers a Derby where they started some from outside the gate. They may have done so back then.

witherbee
Nov. 28, 2007, 03:50 PM
Some horses get permission to be backed in (loaded from the front of the gate). Most gate crews are excellent and really work with the horses. I used to love to go watch them schooling at the gate at Suffolk Downs - very patient and good with the horses. My husband, SIL and BIl break the babies to the starting gate here in Ocala, and it's fun to watch. Most horses do well, but some do freak out (luckily none that we raised). Some tracks use the heavy blanket on some of the horses - it has been found that draping a blanket over the horse and loading him stops him from being freaked out about the gate itself. Just another area where things DO change and get better as people figure out what works best.
As for the trotting/pacing races, my husband was a professional driver and trainer for years before switching to flat races (he still drives occasionally when he gets an opportunity), and the gates and starts are fun to watch. There's a real art to it and the drivers have to work to ease up to the gate - timing is everything! It's usually a white cadillac with the two "wings" of the metal gate on either side. I'm surprised some people have never seen this - you can search of one on You Tube or go to any of the trotting track websites and watch a race. There are some going on right now at the Chester track - here is the website for simulcasting that I use - click on Chester http://espn.go.com/horse/liveracing06.html
I believe that the KY Derby has only had the 2 gates, no actual "outside" (meaning starting without being loaded in a gate at all) starters in the modern era. It would be an unfair advantage or dis-advantage depending on the horse. You can watch replays of Secretariat's races and most of the other big name horses on You Tube, so that's a good place to look if you are really curious. Also a good place to look up a trotting race if you want to see the start.

mintano
Nov. 28, 2007, 09:04 PM
I seem to remember one of the Triple Crown races in a recent year--one horse held up the start for several minutes (at least it seemed a long time) because he/she wouldn't load.
Does anybody else remember this?


I'm pretty sure that would have been Rock Hard Ten in the 2004 Preakness

From USA Today:
http://images.usatoday.com/sports/horses/2004triplecrown/photos/2004-05-15-rock-hard-ten-in.jpg
By Gail Burton, AP

Right from start, Rock Hard Ten was out of sorts. And pretty soon, just like every other new horse in the Preakness Stakes, he was out of the race. Hoping to challenge Smarty Jones on a fast track, Rock Hard Ten instead proved to be more of a handful to jockey Gary Stevens. Kicking up his heels and twirling around, the rambunctious colt refused to enter the starting gate Saturday.

"He's a big, black stallion and he wants to do it his way," breeder and co-owner Madeleine Paulson said. "No one is going to push him in and tell him to go."

Eventually, Stevens jumped off, and it took almost a half-dozen people to shove the horse into place, delaying the start for about five minutes and prompting the record crowd of 112,668 to shout even louder to get going. With Rock Hard Ten finally in place, Stevens climbed aboard again.