08/19/2007 11:00PM

NYRA replaces starter to right gate wrongs

Email

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association replaced starter Richard Brosseau with longtime assistant starter Roy Williamson before the start of Monday's racing program at Saratoga.

Brosseau, who has worked 31 years with the NYRA starting gate crew and succeeded Bob Duncan as starter in 2004, has come under fire following numerous gate incidents, including three horses being declared non-starters, during the Saratoga meet. The three non-starters resulted in a total of $1,698,774 in wagers being refunded. The latest of those incidents occurred last Wednesday when $594,995 in wagers was returned on Phantom Income when she was declared a non-starter after rearing at the start of the Adirondack Stakes. In a statement, NYRA said that Brosseau, 61, had retired.

In addition to promoting Williamson, NYRA announced that Duncan has agreed to expand his consulting role and would review all starting gate procedures for the remainder of the Saratoga meet and the Belmont Park meet that runs Sept. 7 to Oct. 31.

NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward acknowledged Monday that the recent problems had put added pressure on the gate crew.

"We've had several meetings with the jockeys, trainers, and racing officials regarding the gate situation over the last couple of weeks," Hayward said. "We have gotten away from some of the procedures and protocols that had worked successfully in the past and we feel with the promotion of Roy and the availability of Bobby that we will be able to put most of these problems behind us. The starting gate is the most important aspect of the race and it requires communication, collaboration, and precision."

"Sometimes you have to make a change," said Rick Violette, who trains Phantom Income. "Things just weren't working out over a significant period of time, and while these things are never one person's fault someone has to take the fall and that person is usually the one at the top.

"I believe there is more talent on the starting gate crew than most people think, and hopefully a change will allow that talent to come out."

Jockey John Velazquez, who has been involved in several of the gate mishaps, was aboard Phone Home, who was declared a non-starter on Aug. 5.

"The riders held a meeting with management about the situation two weeks ago and I guess today's change is partly a result of that meeting and shows there is open communication," Velazquez said. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see what effect the change of starters will have."- additional reporting

by David Grening