Northern stewards will not charge new starter Frank Phelan after a false start mix-up at Alexandra Park on Friday night saw the last leg of the $100,000 terminating Pick6 abandoned.
Phelan, on his first full night as the northern starter, failed to call a false start to the 1700m mobile trot after a front-line galloper checked second-line horses in the score-up.
Some drivers pulled their horses out of the race after the red light indicating a false start flashed briefly but the race was run before later being abandoned.
Stewards and the JCA looked into the possibility of re-running the race but logistically that was deemed to be impossible so it was abandoned and the Pick6 paid out on live units after five legs.
Stewards were relatively understanding about what they saw as a simple mistake, albeit one they wouldn't want to see repeated, and the incident has been left in the hands of the Auckland Trotting Club as an employment matter.
The debacle was an unfortunate start to the new role for Phelan, who is a well-qualified trainer and now amateur driver himself, as well as hugely popular inside the stabling area.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of the NZ Herald)
*Phelan has had a lot of practice starting alongside former starter Colin Courtney, but Friday was his first time starting on his own. He said that it was the first time he had come across a false start and that he just made an error in judgement.
DUNSTAN TROTTERS SPEED SERIES (HEAT 2)
As the field were scoring up behind the mobile for the start GLENFERRIE PRIDE (barrier 1) broke and galloped causing interference to the second line. The mobile gate slowed resulting in the frontline horses contacting the mobile gate arm with JESSICA, ITSNOWORNEVER and EQUULEI breaking and CONTINENTAL AUTO on the second line also galloping. The Starter momentarily activated the red light and briefly sounded the siren indicating a false start but then activated the green light in an attempt to start the race. JESSICA and CONTINTENAL AUTO pulled up. After some hesitation the remainder of the field continued to race.
The authorisation of the payment of all dividends was withheld and the Stewards lodged a request for a ruling by the J.C.A. under Rule 1102(2)(ii) and (iii) to determine:
1. That Race 7 be postponed, abandoned or cancelled due to the starter declaring a false start.
2. Whether the race is null and void and if the race should be re-run.
The J.C.A. heard submissions from the Starter, Mr Phelan and affected drivers including Mr Herlihy, Mr Argue, Mr Mitchell and Mr Macfarlane.
As a result the J.C.A. deemed the race postponed pending further advice from the Club’s Veterinary Surgeon, Mr Bridge, Club Officers, Raceday Control and the connections of the horses involved.
The J.C.A. were advised by the Raceday (TAB) Control that the Club were unable to run the race out of order and unable to carry over betting pools. Also the Club’s Veterinary Surgeon advised the J.C.A. that “we would be opening ourselves up to a welfare issue” if we were to run the race again, particularly if the race was to be run immediately without giving the horses a break.
The J.C.A. were also advised that two of the horses had left the course and five of the connections wanted the race to be re-run.
Having taken those matters into account, the J.C.A. ruled that:
1. The race be abandoned.
2. The race be declared null and void, and
3. On that basis it is not expected that the race be run again.
Starter Mr F. Phelan was interviewed by the Stipendiary Stewards in regard to the above incident and advised that following deliberations he would be advised of any action to be taken.