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Start switch among National changes
Aintree and the British Horseracing Authority have announced a number of changes that will be implemented for the 2013 John Smith's Grand National.
One of the key measures is moving the position of the start for the world's most famous steeplechase forward 90 yards, away from the crowds and grandstands, among other changes to the starting procedure.
This means the distance of the race will now be around four miles and three and a half furlongs, reduced from the previous distance of four and a half miles.
Other changes to the start include the 'no-go' zone, which is defined by a line on the track, being extended from 15 yards to around 30 yards from the starting tape. The starter's rostrum has been moved to a position between the starting tape and the 'no-go' zone to reduce the potential for horses to go through the starting tape prematurely.
The tapes themselves will also be more user-friendly, with increased visibility, while there will be a specific briefing between the starters' team and the jockeys on Grand National day.
The BHA also revealed there will a concerted drive to improve the starts in other races during the National Hunt season and additional measures will be put in place to minimise the possibility of a riderless horse travelling an extended distance before being caught prior to the National start.
Jamie Stier, Director of Raceday Operations and Regulation for the BHA, said: "Aintree and the BHA's approach has been to reference the findings of the comprehensive 2011 Review, while taking account of any additional data and evidence collated from this year's race. This includes the BHA's thorough report into specific incidents in the 2012 running published in May.
"Following this year's race, our priorities were to establish the facts surrounding the incidents that occurred during the running of the race and, secondly, to review the events which led to what was an unsatisfactory start to the race. We have worked closely with Aintree and consulted widely with jockeys, trainers and legitimate welfare organisations - the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare - on a range of elements related to the race.
"Our objective in recommending changes to the start is to identify ways in which we can create a calmer and more controlled environment for both horse and rider. We recognise that there is pressure and tension before the race and we want to alleviate that where possible.
"It is possible that a more controlled environment at the start, along with reducing the distance between the start and the first fence, could have the effect of reducing the early speed of the race. If this were to be the case, it would be an added benefit."