Thursday, 16 October 2014

Starting at a Jig Jog

To Cartmel, to Cartmel, to buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

To Cartmel, to Cartmel, to buy a fat hog.
Home again, home again, jiggety jog.
This week the British Horseracing Authority announced an update to their instructions for starting procedures: Races will not be started if the field approaches the start at faster than a jig jog...
If the Starter notices the horses approaching at a pace faster than a jig jog (which I think might be jigging, but perhaps it could be jogging) they have the power to wave their flags – at which point all the horses must stop. It sounds like a great game for a children’s tea party.
Sometimes the start of a race can be more interesting than the finish. Some of you might have come across a horse called Mad Moose – he has 3,915 followers on Twittter – who is most famous for digging his toes in and allowing the opposition to reach the first obstacle before deigning to start. He’d then attempt, most enthusiastically, to chase them down in the final furlong. Some times he wouldn’t start at all, creating a "will he / won’t he" tension that gripped all spectators.
Before Mad Moose, there was Vodkatini. The Josh Gifford trained gelding was my second favourite horse in 1988, my favourite horse being most people’s favourite: Desert Orchid, to whom Vodkatini finished third in the King George VI Chase at Kempton. Vodkatini was therefore a top class animal - and another who frequently liked to give his opposition a twenty length start, before trouncing them at the finish.
But in 1988 I had my first sight of another fascinating starter. At Detling point-to-point a horse called Sakr got loose in the horsebox park and galloped around the perimeter a few times. A short while later he got loose again and galloped a full lap of the track. At the start Sakr’s connections gave jockey Andrew Hickman a leg-up, just as the Starter let the field go. Sakr (who, it must be pointed out, was by the sire Hotfoot) shot into the lead and wasn’t seen for dust. He won with his head in his chest.
The following year Sakr transferred his talents, under the tutelage of Joan Wonnacott, to racing under rules – firstly over hurdles and then over fences. On several occasions he planted himself at the start before quickly changing his mind, galloped past the stationery opposition and stole an unassailable lead. Several jockeys got quite annoyed and eventually registered an official protest against the horse – but that didn’t prevent him from winning six races and being placed in a further five from just fifteen runs.
There’s lots of interesting racing at Cheltenham this weekend, but my eye is taken by Kelso’s Saturday card, where Lie Forrit looks attractively handicapped in the 3m2f chase. Come on everyone – down to the betting shop… chop chop… jiggety jog.

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