Racing away: Orotund clears out to win yesterday’s XXXX Gold Maiden Handicap from Mrs Macular and Magic Shuffle.
Racing away: Orotund clears out to win yesterday’s XXXX Gold Maiden Handicap from Mrs Macular and Magic Shuffle. Brendan Ray

False start at Grafton race track

STEWARDS at Grafton yesterday declared the Bettortrader Benchmark 55 Handicap void – a no race – following a post-race inquiry into a barrier malfunction.

When the rare decision was officially announced, punters who backed the winner, the John Shelton-trained Double Honour (Adam Hyeronimus), howled while others scurried through waste bins and surrounds searching for discarded betting tickets.

The NSW tote held approximately $150,000 on the event, Clarence River Jockey Club chairman Bob Pavitt saying he’d couldn’t remember a similar occurrence at Grafton in over 30 years.

Problems first arose when starter Rex Kelly pressed the automatic start button but nothing happened.

While trying to reset the device it jammed. Kelly then tried to affect a manual start but that too failed.

“The gates then opened and horses came out in dribs and drabs,” Kelly told the inquiry.

Kelly attempted to activate the false start siren but to no avail. He even tried yelling to the riders to alert them of a false start.

Each rider in the race was asked if he or she was disadvantaged at the start, the film clearly showing several horses badly affected.

Most realised it was likely to be a false start but when no siren or light showed they rode on regardless.

However, with numerous horses clearly disadvantaged and with due regard to the betting public and integrity of racing, stewards made the decision to declare the event void.

“By his own words, Mr Kelly declared the race a false start,” chief steward Drew Smith said. “At no stage did Mr Kelly officially start the event.

“Under rule 139 we declare this race void. All monies are to be refunded.”

Cheekily, Hyeronimus asked Smith: “Can I protest the decision?”

Hyeronimus’s plea fell on deaf ears.

Even winning trainer John Shelton twigged there would be problems before the inquiry.

“Can I get you for an interview?” Sky Channel on-course interviewer Gary Kliese asked the leading local trainer on the way to the winners’ stall.

“There’s not much point, it will be a no race,” Shelton mumbled knowingly.

The last similar occurrence – a no race – happened at Casino a couple of years back when horses were inadvertently loaded into the wrong barriers.

Meanwhile, Grafton trainer Hunter Kilner further enhanced his reputation as a specialist in setting a galloper up for a win when Rebel Rock Star strode to victory first up in the Mark Bloomer Transport Benchmark 55 Hcp (1100m).

Backed from $4 into $2.50 favouritism, the three-year-old ripped a packet from the betting ring.

“He’s an exceptional track worker and had done good,” Kilner suggested. “Last time in he raced flat and we found he had a virus so we put him out after one run.

“I guess he’s rewarded us with a pretty good win today.”

Rebel Rock Star was the street corner tip. Every second tipster wanted to tell you he’d been working brilliantly. They were right for once.

Ridden by Chris Whitely, Rebel Rock Star, owned by Brian Grant, beat Sir Qualo and Romiaka.

Kilner bred the Easy Rocking-Cascade Of Stars gelding.

“I owned the mother but needed some money and sold the dam to Brian Grant. He’s (Rebel Rock Star) her second foal,” Kilner said. “Last time up he didn’t back up too well. We’ll see how he goes. Hopefully he’ll still be around at carnival time.”

Coffs Harbour trainer Gordon Yorke scored a double with Armero and Cap Vilano.

While Armero is headed to the Carnarvon Cup carnival in West Australia, Filante four-year-old Cap Vilano is on the rise.

“A real nice horse,” Yorke said. “He showed me plenty early but the owners have been patient and allowed me to turn him out for a long spell and he’s come back bigger, stronger and now a real racehorse.

“He shows me enough to suggest he can be a group or country cups horse. He’s pretty good but I’m going to look after him.”

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