The Moët & Chandon July Festival meeting marks an important milestone in racing’s history with the 50th anniversary of the introduction of starting stalls.
On 8th July 1965 Newmarket’s Chesterfield Stakes, a race for two-year-olds and won by Track Spare ridden by Lester Piggott, made racing history by becoming the first horserace in Great Britain to be started from stalls.
After further tentative use at Newmarket during the remainder of the 1965 season, stalls were formally adopted as the fairest method of starting races on the Flat and were rolled-out across 135 race-days the following year.
Under the management of RaceTech their development has continued and in 2014 more than 4,000 races were started from stalls with some of the world’s most valuable bloodstock expertly loaded by a team of skilled and dedicated professionals who can number up to 150 at the height of the season.
As part of the golden anniversary celebrations at the Adnams July Course, RaceTech’s Chief Executive Brad Higgins and fellow directors will be hosting some of the stalwarts of stalls teams past and present including 84-year-old retired stalls hander Dennis Cutts, and former stalls team leaders John Bartlett, Ted Jackson and Charlie Tidball.
Brad Higgins said: “The introduction of starting stalls was a radical but necessary step for racing to take in the mid-60s, and RaceTech is proud to have continued to develop and refine the systems and processes that get around 4,000 races successfully under way annually with barely an incident.
“The loading process is a tough and highly-skilled job and we are delighted this week to have the opportunity to direct some of the attention towards the people who are continuously at the sharp end and whose work is respected and admired around the world.”
Channel 4 to feature stalls handlers
Mark Wilson, currently a deputy team leader and training rep who will be attending with his father Brian, also a retired handler, is set to play a unique role in the celebrations.
He will be putting former top jump jockey, Mick Fitzgerald, through his paces at the British Racing School on Tuesday after the Channel 4 presenter ‘volunteered’ to undergo the training required to qualify as a ‘pusher’. If successful Fitzgerald will join the stalls team at Newmarket to assist with a load which will be broadcast live as part of Channel 4’s coverage of the meeting.
Andy Peverell, RaceTech’s Racing Operations and Safety Manager said: “We employ more than 100 seasonal handlers and all applicants must demonstrate that they have previously worked with horses. Mick clearly has a terrific head start in that respect, although our own safety and welfare policies and those of the BHA must be universally applied, so there may well be a lot to learn even for someone with Mick’s considerable experience and horsemanship.
“We are delighted that Channel 4 has chosen to feature the stalls teams this week and give them some of the profile they richly deserve.”
Stalls handlers at the Moët & Chandon July Festival will be wearing gold skull caps in recognition of the landmark celebration.