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A starter is an official at a racecourse who is ultimately responsible for the individual races to begin. Whether it is a race using a starting gate or one with a tape, the starter is there to ensure that every runner and rider has an equal chance to get the best possible start to the race.
The starter is also responsible for the race to begin on time and for various other administrative roles surrounding the beginning of each race.
A horse racing term that has now transcended the sport is ‘under starter’s orders’. Many people with no interest or knowledge of racing will understand what that means in everyday speech. In its original context it is the point when a starter has all the horses and their jockeys in the starting gate – or at the correct point behind a tape – and can give the signal to start the race.
The point of being ‘under starter’s orders’ is very important, as it is when any bets placed become live. If a horse refuses to come out of the gate – or just doesn’t go with the field once the tape is dropped – the bet would classed as a loser. The horse is considered part of the race once the starter has them under orders.
If a horse has pulled out of a race before it gets to the point of being under starter’s orders then the bet is classed as void.
The 1993 Grand National became ‘the race that never was’ after all but nine of the horses carried on racing despite there being a false start. Seven of the nine actually completed the course.