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  1. #1
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    Default "Race" horse who won't load in the starting gate -- a question.

    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?
    Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
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  2. #2
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    Default re: refusal to load

    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.
    "When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one represents danger, the other represents opportunity."

    John F Kennedy



  3. #3
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Wellspotted View Post
    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



  4. #4
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    Default

    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.



  5. #5
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    Default

    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?
    Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
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  6. #6
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    Default

    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.



  7. #7
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    Gee thanks, Wellspotted. They just don't make wands like they used to. 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.



  8. #8
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    Default

    And I have one that lost his gate card for refusing to come out when the doors opened.



  9. #9
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dressagetraks View Post
    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.



  10. #10
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    Default

    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.



  11. #11
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    Default Found It

    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."



  12. #12
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    Default

    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.

    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?
    Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
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  13. #13
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    Default

    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)



  14. #14
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    Default harness racing

    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.
    "When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one represents danger, the other represents opportunity."

    John F Kennedy



  15. #15
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    Default re: failure to leave the gate

    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.
    "When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one represents danger, the other represents opportunity."

    John F Kennedy



  16. #16
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    Default

    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



  17. #17
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    Default

    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.
    "Gallop as if you were to die tomorrow, jump as if you were to live forever."



  18. #18
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Wellspotted View Post
    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.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drvmb1ggl3 View Post
    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.
    Wow that really was trashy. What ever happened with that race?
    George



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by olympicdreams04 View Post
    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



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