In a moment fitting perfectly into 2020’s surreal archives, Newcastle’s final race on Saturday turned into a Monty Python skit after the race’s starter prematurely started the race while one horse was still being reloaded into the gate.
The false start resulted in seven of the race’s 13 horses being withdrawn, based on the fact they completed the course. That made them ineligible to run the restarted race.
The mind-reeling incident happened when race-favorite Klopp entered the gate, then backed out. Handlers were in the process of reloading her when the starter inexplicably opened the gates for the five-furlong race.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) December 12, 2020
Klopp watched her fellow competitors run the race as several jockeys tried pulling up their horses. When the dust settled, seven horses in the 13-horse field were withdrawn from the restarted race. That list included second-favorite Fair Alibi (9/2), along with Qaarat (10/1), Suwann (14/1), Debawtry (33/1), and longer shots Jordan’s Chris, Isabella Ruby, and Jessie Allan.
Newcastle Provides Klopp Her Easiest Victory
That opened up matters for Klopp, who unsurprisingly and easily won Race 2.0 at 11/4. Global Humor (9/1) finished second, with 17/2 Kaafy taking third.
“She didn’t really go in the stall and came straight back out,” Harry Russell, Klopp’s jockey, told Sky Sports Racing. “The starter thought she had gone in and hit the button and the rest of them have jumped. It’s a shame and not the circumstances you want to win it, but it happened and we just have to move past it. I don’t think I’ve had an easier winner in my career.”
Fans didn’t find this nearly as easy to swallow as Russell. Twitter blew up with irate horseplayers and fans wondering how the race wasn’t voided, or that Klopp wasn’t the scratched horse. Or that it was restarted in the first place.
The other horses didnt have a hope in hell! Utter utter shambles.
— James (@jamesh220279) December 12, 2020
“Punters the ones to lose out yet again! Starter has one job! Needs disciplinary action,” read one tweet.
“How can you restart the race after that – those horses have already ran about 1f and it’s a sprint. You just scratch the other horse. Wow – the starter blew this BIG TIME!” read another.
British Horseracing Authority Has its Hands Full
The British Horseracing Authority gets to sort this mess out. Its official stewards’ report said “A (sic) inquiry was held into the circumstances surrounding the false start of this race. The starters, the starting stalls team leader, the clerk of the course, the advanced flag operator, and all riders were interviewed and shown recordings. Having heard their evidence, the stewards ordered a report to be forwarded to the head office of the British Horseracing Authority.”
When it came to parceling out blame, Fair Alibi’s trainer, Tom Tate, cut to the chase.
“I might be wrong on this, but the starter released the horses that were stood in the stalls. He is the one in charge of the whole operation, so from that point, the race has started,” he told the Racing Post. “I was a jockey for many years, and when a starter says go, then you go. If they void the race, that is up to them and brings up other issues, not least of which are the expense for those participants who are affected.”