Stalls that travelled 10,103 miles from Australia will start the first £1m Ebor
The first £1 million Sky Bet Ebor will begin next year from a brand new custom-built set of starting stalls that have travelled halfway around the world to take up residence at York, a major investment that will enable an additional two horses to compete in the race.
Contests such as the Ebor and John Smith's Cup will in future be able to accommodate 22 runners after York spent a six-figure sum on what is now Britain's biggest set of starting stalls.
The mammoth unit completed a 10,103-mile journey from the Steriline Racing factory in Adelaide, South Australia, where the world's leading manufacturer of starting stalls also produced the unique 25-bay gate that for the last eight years has been used at Flemington in the Melbourne Cup.
The stalls are set to be based permanently on the Knavesmire, where they have already been unveiled for the first of several planned tests to enable horses, jockeys, starters, RaceTech handlers and BHA officials to become familiar with them.
The purchase of the stalls – which could be brought into raceday action at York's October meeting – comes one year before the track stages Britain's inaugural £1m Flat handicap. They will give two further sets of connections the chance of victory in a prize that, like the John Smith's Cup, is nigh on guaranteed to be oversubscribed.
Richard Fahey sent seven horses to take part in the initial getting-to-know-you session, at which the trainer's stable jockey Paul Hanagan was also present.
"From our perspective this trial went very well," said Hanagan. "The new stalls were really well padded, the gates at the rear are splayed, allowing easier entry, and the whole structure seemed quieter and sturdier with less rattle."
York chief executive William Derby said: "With a set track width, this new single 22-bay stall will allow us to increase the number of horses we can start from 20 to 22.
"We hope connections, racegoers and punters will all benefit from us being able to allow two extra horses to race in famous York contests such as the John Smith’s Cup and Sky Bet Ebor from next year.
"It has taken a lot of work by a lot of people to develop and build these bespoke stalls, which have all the latest safety and technological specifications, so a big thank you to all involved at Steriline Racing, RaceTech and the BHA."
Derby added: "The barrier trial has been a great first step in seeing them in action as part of our testing and familiarisation. We are appreciative of all the help and support of all involved. We look to forward to seeing them in action at York later in the year. It is certainly an exciting prospect."
RaceTech confirmed itself to be "very happy" with the new stalls, while Professional Jockeys Association executive director of racing Dale Gibson said: "Having witnessed the stalls trial, I was impressed by the added features, both in terms of encouraging the loading process, and also the improved safety for horse and jockey whilst they wait to jump out, a factor that remains of paramount importance to the PJA."
The stalls will be available for professionals and racegoers to view during next week's Ebor festival and again before racing on September 9, when trainers will be able to send horses through the stalls.
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