The recent report that Churchill Downs officials went to Great Britain last week in a search of a starting gate that could accommodate the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field is welcome news.
Large fields, especially at Europe’s most prestigious race meets, can easily draw well over 20 competitors. There are starting gates in Europe can accommodate as many as 24 horses.
This would mean an end of the two starting gate system in which there is a wide gap between stalls 14 and 15.
Since horses tend to run to open space and with the angle of the second gate slanted slightly inward, starts can be unnecessarily fraught with danger.
Perhaps of greater significance is that one gate no longer would require horses breaking from the pole position to make a slight adjustment to the right to avoid running into the rail at the end of the stretch turn.
We have made the suggestion that Churchill Downs Inc. make an investment into this fix that is paramount to the safety of horses and riders.
Additionally, trainer Mark Mark spoke of this issue during an NTRA Triple Crown press conference this spring. Further, owner Gary West, blamed CDI’s “greed” for allowing more than 14 horses to compete.
Of course, it was Barber’s Maximum Security who became the first horse in the history of the race to be disqualified for race interference.