Head Starter John Pepe ready to give the signal
Helming this important team at STC is John Pepe, Head Starter. He runs a tight ship, to ensure that the preparations and groundwork for starting every weekend’s races are done at an impeccably high standard.
Race starters play a critical role in the horse racing industry. So much so that the race can’t go on without them. While no paper qualifications are required for the role, it takes years of on-the-ground experience, horse sense and proper understanding of horses to excel in the role.
“Horses are sensitive creatures and can sense how people react to them. Race starters require a certain level of temperament to ensure that they keep calm and agile when under pressure,” Pepe quipped.
So, how does Pepe and team ensure race integrity and a safe start for each race?
As part of pre-race preparations, starters make sure that all horses are properly educated so that they behave themselves around the barriers.
“At STC, horses are required to do a series of barrier trials for us to ascertain their readiness for the races. Horses that we deem ready – showing us that that they will behave the right way and not injure themselves or anyone around them – then get a certificate to participate on race days,” he shared.
Ahead of each race, we start loading the horses into their respective barriers, with horses that take slightly longer to load, going first. What’s most critical is that we load them as quickly and safely as possible, and that they are standing in their positions quietly before the gates open,” continued Pepe.