03/09/2017 3:30PM

McMullen officially named NYRA head starter


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Though he has basically been doing the job since Dec. 31, Mike McMullen was officially tabbed last weekend as the new head starter for the New York Racing Association.

McMullen replaces Roy Williamson, who retired. Williamson had worked on the gate crew at NYRA since 1985 and was the head starter since 2007, when he replaced Richard Brosseau during the Saratoga meet.

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McMullen, 47, has worked on the gate crew at NYRA for 21 years. He became the first assistant to Williamson in 2007.

“The starter has a first and second assistant, so the first assistant backs up the starter, and we pretty much are in charge of setting up the program in the afternoon, the loading process,” McMullen said. “We keep pretty detailed records of every horse that comes through the gates.”

The starters also work at the gate in the morning for schooling. Currently, there is training only at Aqueduct and the Belmont training track, but in April, the Belmont Park main track opens, as does Saratoga’s training track.

McMullen said he doesn’t expect many changes to gate protocols but added: “I’m also just diving into this, so to speak. We’ll see as time goes on, but I don’t foresee many changes.”