Fair-Start Pole Proposal In NJ

Published: November 11, 2010 04:34 pm EST

The New Jersey Racing Commission has announced that it has proposed an amendment to N.J.A.C. 13:71-17.1, which pertains to the starting gate in state harness races


On August 19, 2009, the Racing Commission determined to advertise the proposed rule for public comment. The amendment is the result of a rulemaking petition filed with the Racing Commission by Alan Schott via email dated June 21, 2009.

The proposed amendment to N.J.A.C. 13:71-17.1 will implement a fair start pole which will be erected approximately 200 feet before the start. The fair start pole shall be yellow and protrude at least two feet above the inner rail.

The fair start pole would be used to disqualify a horse from the pari-mutuel wagering pools if the horse has not reached the fair start pole when the starting gate reaches the starting point.

The proposed rule provides an opportunity for bettors to receive a refund of their wagers if a horse they wagered on did not receive a fair start and was disqualified.

The Racing Commission provides for a 60-day comment period on the notice of proposal, which was filed on August 10, 2010 and dated September 7, 2010.

To view the notice in its entirety, click here.

(With files from the NJRC)



I hope they do a better job of showing the public a reasonable perspective of where the refunded or non-refunded horses are with respect to the fair start pole than Ontario does.

Judges drawing a line across the pole in perspective was a good idea at WEG, but for some reason it was only done sporadically. Can we not get consistant...i.e. take the photo from the same place all the time, and do it in a methodical and fair manner that makes it plain to see by the public?

In reply to by [email protected]

Bernie, I see your point. But at this point, it is important to correct the grevious injustice done to the wagering public when the recall rules were changed. The fair start pole is close to where the original recall pole wsa. Is it ideal? Probably not, but at least the most grevious offenses are addressed. I can't tell you how many times I have seen the field get sent off and a horse that refused to come to the gate or broke well before the start is closer to the paddock than he is to the starting line.

Remember the fair start pole isn't a recall pole. A horses that goes off stride at 205 feet is not going to get refunded as the criteria is to be 200 feet back at the start of the race. Odds are in this case, the horse will be maybe 75-100 feet behind; tough to get back into the race but not impossible. At 200 feet back, the horse probably has a 5% chance of getting back into the race; less to get into a cashing position.

For the record, if wagering stopped once the starting gate began moving, I wouldn't have a problem with no fair start. My problem comes with people having wagers which are 99.99% losers while people are still wagering on the race.

Horsemen and the tracks may be annoyed in NJ if a fair start rule comes into place as they lose the commissions on refunded tickets, but how much are they losing when newcomers feel cheated and existing gamblers lose one big bet too many this way and decide to go play poker or slots; at least they will get a perceived fair chance there. In the long run, a fair start may help retain and attract new players.

Allan Schott has all my respect. This ruling will affect all Canadians betting on N.J. races. Harness racing needs to be much more universal and consistent in it's rules and regulations. It is difficult for drivers, trainers, bettors to be involved in betting different jurisdictions where whipping rules, pylon rules, fair start rules, etc. are different. No new ideas here. All that is missing is the execution.

Thank you Allan, for continuing to stand up and speak out for the regular Joe Shmoe punter.

Call it the "unfair start pole" and at least its description becomes accurate. Try explaining to anyone who is new to the game that a horse who is off stride 195 feet behind the field had a fair start. For that matter, as I think about it, try explaining it to anyone.