A G White Socks onto unruly for tonight's Group Three feature

By Michael Guerin

A step backwards for open class pacing star A G’s White Socks may be coming at the right time at Addington tonight because of a change to the way standing starts are conducted at the track.

A G’s White Socks continued his hate-hate relationship with standing starts in the first open class pacing race of the season at Addington last Friday, missing away so badly he lost his winning chance, his recovery for fourth suggesting with a safe beginning he would have won.

The indiscretion has convinced co-trainer Greg Hope to place A G’s White Socks on the unruly for tonight’s Group Three $30,000 Avon City Ford Cup meaning he could once again be giving last Friday’s winner Classie Brigade a big start but Hope says being in the field soon after the start is better than chasing it.

And he believes putting A G’s White Socks on the unruly makes even more sense as Addington starter Ricky Donnelly has told stewards and drivers he intends to make horses actually stand before letting standing start races begin, rather than walk up to the tapes and begin.

Standing starts have been hit or miss in terms of quality for years in Canterbury and the issue came to a head in an embarrassing start to last season’s New Zealand Cup where the horses drawn wide were moving at pace before the tapes were released while favourite Copy That, drawn the ace, was left standing and enormously disadvantaged.

Racing Integrity Board stewards have worked with horsepeople to develop more uniform rules for standing start races, to make them both fairer and halt the long delays that affect so many standing starts.

Those proposed new standing start rules will go to the HRNZ executive and then be voted on at the HRNZ conference in October.

But Donnelly has informed stewards that he intends requiring horses to stand behind the tapes before he starts the race to stop drivers trying to get running starts by waiting back and rushing the tapes.

“We fully support Mr Donnelly on that and the trainers and drivers know that will be his procedure from now on,” says RIB steward Nick Ydgren.

“And we are looking forward to the whole pre-start regulations and starts themselves being more uniform if and when the rule is passed in October.”

That will also mean stewards cracking down on drivers who try and get running starts as well as those who hang back and out of position at the start of mobile races.

Back to Hope, who thinks the disadvantage of being back on the unruly, wide and just behind the front line for A G’s White Socks tonight, is lessened by the new standing start methods spelt out by Donnelly.

He believes with all horses standing before the start it will be a fairer start, rather than the better standing start horses getting a walk up because of their superior manners and putting lengths on their rivals inside the first 100m, also sometimes startling them into an early gallop.

“I think it will help him and Ricky (May, driver) reckoned it wasn’t entirely the horse’s fault last week so if he steps this week he will be hard to beat,” says Hope.

Still, early season racing being what it is, if Classie Brigade, Di Caprio and Henry Hubert step well and control the race it will take something special from A G’s White Socks, or anything else, to catch them in a low-pressure environment.

Hope also brings one of his open class trotters back for his seasonal debut tonight when Midnight Dash takes on Sundees Son in the Ordeal Trotting Cup.

“He is well enough but I can’t see him winning fresh up in this grade,” admits Hope.

Sundees Son cost punters a fortune when he went back to last and never looked a winning hope in his comeback race last Friday but, improved by that run, he should be handier and winning tonight.

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