Saratoga Springs, NY, Aug. 20, 2007--In the wake of a series of incidents in the Saratoga starting gate, resulting in last-minute scratches that cost the New York Racing Association over $2 million in betting handle and lost purse-earning opportunities for owners, the association has fired its head starter Richard Brosseau, HorseRaceInsider has learned.
Brosseau had replaced long time head starter Bob Duncan, widely regarded as the industry's best at his position. Duncan is still active and often is called in by some of the world's leading racetracks as a special consultant prior to its most important events.
Brosseau is expected to be replaced by his number one assistant, veteran assistant starter Roy Williamson, possibly as soon as later this week.
NYRA officials had appeared in the press box earlier at the meeting to discuss the situation, placing the cause on a lack of communication in the gate between the starting gate crew and the jockeys in the moments before the start, but did not elaborate specifics.
HRI also learned that those issues were likely the result of new protocols instituted by Brosseau. There has been too much chatter in the gate just prior to the start of a race due to the elimination of a microphone, the confusion often causing the kind of chaos upsetting to highly strung thoroughbreds.
Resultantly, some horses at this meet were in the grasp of an assistant starter and were severely compromised at the break. The NYRA has led the way in protecting the public by ordering refunds when these types of incidents occur.
The increased noise level was also upsetting to the horses, exacerbated by the fact there are many races carded at Saratoga for un-raced two-year-olds and other young horses light on experience.
Under Duncan's direction, chatter was limited to the time just before the break when he would give his crew a heads-up that the start was about to commence. All would know, including fans, that a start was upcoming when they heard Duncan's words: "OK, let's get tied on."
Brosseau had also shortened the distance between his observation perch and the starting gate, from 75 feet to 45 feet, hindering depth perception and the ability to view the activity of horses leaving from outside positions.