York Racecourse is now the proud owner of the biggest set of starting stalls in Britain and the first of its kind in the world.
Capable of housing 22 runners at a time, the new unit has recently made the 10,103-mile journey from the Adelaide, South Australia, factory of Steriline Racing, the world’s leading manufacturer.
York has been staging several testing and bedding-in sessions so that horses, riders, starters, and Racetech stalls handlers as well as trainers’, jockeys’ and BHA (British Horseracing Authority) representatives could become familiar with them.
The six-figure investment means that, once properly accredited, York will be able to stage races with two extra horses, up to the new maximum of 22.
This is good news for connections wanting to run in some of the country’s most popular races, such as the John Smith’s Cup or Sky Bet Ebor, where horses are often balloted out. In the modern era where the number of runners in a race is linked to the funding from levy and media rights, then it is hoped that the additional berths will provide a long-term return on the investment.
‘Quieter and sturdier’
While the stalls themselves may be new to Britain, the design has successfully been used in Australia, where Flemington starts the Melbourne Cup from a 25-bay stall.
Seven horses from Richard Fahey’s Malton yard assisted with the first trial. Stable jockey and former British champion Paul Hanagan, who was among the riders, said, “From our perspective this trial went very well. The new stalls were really well padded, the gates at the rear are splayed allowing easier entry and the whole structure seemed quieter and sturdier with less rattle. I am very much looking forward to seeing them come into use for racing at York.”
The stalls will be available for trainers, jockeys and racegoers to view at next week’s Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival. Then ahead of racing at York on Sunday, September 9, trainers interested in sending horses to take part in a barrier trial will be invited to use the stalls. All being well, the plan is to use the 22-bay starting gate for the first time for a race at York’s October meeting ahead of a full roll-out in 2019.
Dale Gibson, Professional Jockeys Association executive director of racing said, “Having witnessed the stalls trial in July, I was impressed by the added features, both to encourage the loading process, combined with the improved safety for horse and jockey while waiting to jump out, a factor that remains of paramount importance to the PJA.”
Andy Peverell, racing operations manager at RaceTech, said, “We’ve been very pleased to work with the team at York and Steriline Racing in the process of purchasing and installing the new 22 bay stalls. The RaceTech stalls team were very happy with the trials and are looking forward to using the new equipment .”
Overseeing the trial was York Racecourse chief executive and clerk of the course William Derby, who said, “It has taken a lot of work by a lot of people to develop and build these bespoke stalls, which have all the latest safety and technological specifications, so a big thank you to all involved at Steriline Racing, Racetech and the BHA.
“The barrier trial has been a great first step in seeing them in action as part of our testing and familiarisation and we are appreciative of the help and support of all involved. We look to forward to seeing them in action at York later in the year. It is certainly an exciting prospect.”