Delaware: No action against assistant starter
Delaware starting gate. Photo by HoofprintsInc.com.
by Frank Vespe
Prior to the start of the fifth race on June 14, Accolade, a three-year-old maiden trained by Abel Castellano for owner Glenn Fagan, became antsy in the starting gate before the maiden turf event, lowering his head, then bucking upwards on more than one occasion.
Video showed the assistant starter in the gate attempting to wrangle the horse into position, including slapping him several times on the side of the face, before the horse settled long enough for the starter to spring the gates. What the video seemed to show — a starter being unnecessarily rough with a horse — caused a firestorm on horse racing social media, with calls for the assistant starter to be subject to stricter discipline.
“Accolade was fractious in the gate, struck several times by the assistant start [sic] prior to the break,” read the official Equibase chart.
The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission (DTRC) stewards stepped quickly and held a hearing with the assistant starter the morning of June 16.
It took them nine days, however, to render a decision, a period during which the assistant starter was kept off the crew. The verdict: no further action will be taken. This afternoon, Delaware Park issued the following statement:
“The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission (DTRC) has advised Delaware Park that the Stewards have completed a thorough investigation of the incident that occurred in the starting gate before the fifth race at the racetrack on Thursday, June 14th and that no disciplinary action will be taken against the Assistant Starter. Based upon this determination, the Assistant Starter, who has been on suspension since the incident occurred, will be allowed to return to his position.”