Friday, July 29, 2011

Gate Threat

Alert jockeys avoid accident

Had it not been for quick reflexes and the presence of mind of jockeys who rode in the P Hadow Trophy, the feature race on Thursday's card, there could have been a very serious accident at the Pune racetrack yesterday as the starting gates for the race malfunctioned when the last of the seven horses was being loaded, and clicked open without the starter putting the flag down.

Just for the record, the race was re-run later and was won by Elizabeth, ridden by B Prakash for trainer Pesi Shroff.

The poor handler involved in the incident was extremely lucky to escape without serious hurt as he gained that crucial, extra fraction of a second to jump to safety as alert jockeys reacted swiftly, realizing that it was a 'false start', and held back their horses.

The incident possibly would not have happened if the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) had learnt its lesson after the tragedy last year at the same track when a horse named Running Bull had to be put down on compassionate grounds after getting trapped in the same old starting gates due to malfunction. Interestingly, five months after the Running Bull tragedy the race club imported supposedly the world's best starting gates with a lot of fanfare, talking about how they viewed horses' and jockeys' safety as most important, and why they went for the world's safest & best starting gates despite the high price.

Ironically, the new gates have been brought in from Mahalaxmi to Pune, but the club in his wisdom took the decision of using the same old starting gates only for six-furlong races, like the P Hadow Trophy run yesterday, so that they can let it lie there permanently for all six-furlong races on the monsoon track. "They are choosing convenience over safety," said an angry horse owner to MiD DAY on the condition of anonymity, "knowing full well that those old gates are dangerous and can malfunction anytime."

Vivek Jain, chairman of the club, who has yet to attend the one-week old Pune racing season, told MiD DAY over the phone, "I was told last week they would use it (the old gates) for some time because moving the new gates on the wet surface would cause damage to the track. But after today's incident, I assume they will not use it from tomorrow."

When MiD DAY contacted Zavaray Poonawalla, who was actively involved with the import of the new gates along with Pesi Shorff and Dara Mehta (owner of the ill-fated Running Bull, and reported the incident, he said, "I was not there at the races today, and I am rather surprised they are still using the old gates," before adding, "the new gates we have procured are the world's best and safest starting gates, they are being used all over the English tracks with excellent safety record. I will visit the races tomorrow and look into the matter."

(c) MiD DAY

1 comment:

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