Starting Gate - Harness Racing

Harness Racing

Before mobile starting gates gained popularity in harness racing, a rolling start was used. The horses were driven in a number of circles, and the manoeuvre, if carried out correctly, arranged the horses in lines. The fairness of the start was judged by stewards at the starting line; if they judged that a racer was not fairly in line with the others, a false start would be called and the race would start again. This process was sometimes repeated several times before a fair start occurred. Rolling starts are still used, although they are rarer than "car starts".

In the middle 20th Century, the mobile starting gate was developed. This device consists of a car or pickup truck equipped with metal "wings" on each side. As the vehicle is driven down the center of the track, the wings are extended and the horses line up in order behind it. When the gate reaches the starting line, the starter retracts the wings, which fold inward toward the vehicle body. The vehicle then accelerates and pulls off to the outside to let the racers proceed; it many cases, it then follows close behind the racers for officials to view the race and any potential infractions of rules.

The motorized gate drastically reduced the number of false starts, but did not eliminate them. If the starter, who rides in the vehicle facing backward toward the horses, sees that the start is not fair in some way, he may issue a recall and order the race to be started again.

Modern mobile starting barriers now include "Auto start". This innovation allows the starter in the rear to observe the race and call a false start if required. The start speed, acceleration, score up distance, and gate closing are controlled via a computer system, which takes control of the vehicle and provides a printout at the end of the score up. These type of barriers are used in all major races in Australia

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