BLAST FROM THE PAST
1965 MOBILE START CONTROVERSY
MOBILE START CONTROVERSY
It will be heartening news to advocates of the mobile barrier that the NZ Metropolitan TC has included two such events on it's Easter programme - and top class features to boot.
The primary objective of practical supporters of the mobile barrier in maintaining their enthusiasm for the moving start is a fear that the standing start (ie the standing start alone), is bogging down our progress and seperating us permanently from world speed standards. And they will certainly take heart from the Metropolitan's return to the mobile barrier, especially since our leading club has done so in the face of relentless and, at times, virulent criticism from some quarters.
The Metropolitan's two mobile races will be the Flying Mile on the first day - Saturday, April 3, and the Rothschild Stakes on the second day - Saturday, April 10. The Flying Mile, worth £1500, is for horses assessed at 2.11 or faster (free-for-all conditions), and an additional stake will be paid to the winning horse at the rate of £100 for every one-fifth of a second it records under 1.59, with a maximum of £500. The Rothschild Stakes, also a £1500 race, to be run over one mile and a quarter, is for 2.11 and faster horses under free-for-all conditions; and here an additional stake of £500 will be paid to the winning horse if it breaks the world record of 2.29 3-5 for the mile and a quarter at present held by the American pacer Irvin Paul.
No one expects that all races should be started from the mobile barrier - in the meantime, anyway! But let the critics be fair enough to concede that programmes will be none the poorer for a little variety; that there is no real evidence to support much of the criticism levelled at the Canterbury Park starting gate from time to time. Canterbury Park has persevered with the gate and has no intention of curtailing its use - neither it should have after the perfect start to its 2-year-old race last week. Never in this writer's experience has there been a better despatch to a juvenile race in this country than that effected by the mobile barrier in the January Stakes. It was a smooth bussinesslike start, and not one of the youngsters looked the slightest bit perturbed or looked like doing anything wrong.
Danger lurks in any kind of race, but the proposition that the mobile barrier is dangerous, with the underlying implication that the standing start is not so dangerous, is untenable, in fact preposterous. In passing, it is recalled that C C Devine, on his return from America, said he saw hundreds of races from the mobile barrier there, and not one accident. There has been no accident behind it here, either.
And what is the yardstick of public interest? If it is investments on the totalisator, the mobile barrier is more than holding it's own. For years the best betting races at Canterbury Park meetings have been mobile barrier events, and the Metropolitan Trotting Club had a similar experience when it last used the gate in 1962. The biggest on-course betting at the Metropolitan National Meeting, 1962 (both days), was on races from the mobile barrier. On the first day the £11,982 invested on the Lightning Free-for-all, and the £9815 on the Templeton Stakes, were the largest betting pools; and on the second day the £11,639 wagered on the Farewell Stakes was by far the biggest total. A reminder - all were mobile races.
The 1962 NZ Cup Meeting, with only the odd race or two from the starting gate: one of these, the NZ Free-For-All, drew the largest on and off-course betting on the second day. The investments on the NZ Trotting Free-For-All, on the third day, were not the highest, but they were relatively good; and in the only mobile race on the fourth day, the Smithson Free-for-all, a surprisingly good total was invested on a small field with an odds-on favourite in it - Cardigan Bay (Lordship was scratched).
The Metropolitan Trotting Club's return to the gate has at least arrested the imminent danger that the mobile barrier would founder on the opinions of much the same brand of grizzlers who could find nothing favourable to say about Addington's new hub rail; the mobile barrier has run the gauntlet of similar prejudice and half-baked "facts" - all overdue for a thorough examination.
Mr Keith Davidson, president of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club, went on record in 1962 as saying: "The Canterbury Park starting gate, built under the direction of the president of the Canterbury Park Trotting Club (Mr L S Smart) was an unqualified success when first used in May. There has been criticism of the gate, but surely from the point of view of the confidence of the betting public, that all starters have an equal opportunity of getting away, it cannot but help trotting in general." It is suspected that Mr Davidson had a battle on his hands persuading the programme committee to give the gate another trial. Some of us now feel confident our leading club is again headed in the right direction.
Credit: 'Ribbonwood' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 3Feb65