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Barrier Trials will soon be obligatory in KwaZulu-Natal for unraced horses and those returning after a rest of 120 days or more. The trials will be held over 1000m on the Greyville polytrack prior to race meetings under the control of the National Horseracing Authority and no betting will be permitted.

Horses will have to run within 60 days of their trials calculated to the acceptance date and only horses finishing within a benchmark of 70 secs will be deemed to have qualified. The standard time for the trip is 58,45 secs, so this limit ensures that the participants are kept relatively enthusiastic.

The registered owner’s colours or the silks of the trainer will be worn in the trials.
Once all acceptors for a barrier trial have been declared by their trainers, Gold Circle will allocate the field for the trial at their sole discretion. An effort will be made to allocate the final trial field based on what appears to be horses best suited in terms of ability with merit ratings used as a guide.

Barrier trials will be run at a set weight of 58kgs, plus overweight if necessary, and only licenced jockeys and apprentices are permitted to ride.

Fields will be published in the official race card and comprise a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 8 triallists. The results of trials will be published in the official racecard and videos posted on-line at www.goldcircle.co.za.

Barrier trials are used in countries like Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. They are beneficial for horses who have not run before and in Australia for example, trainers consider them essential in order to prepare a horse for its first race.

The experience gives unraced horses the full race-meeting feel – the journey to the racecourse, the crowd buzz and if there are enough horses participating in the trial, it’s like a real race but with no pressure to win.

Paul Lafferty, chairman of the KZN Trainers Association, and a driving force behind the introduction of barrier trials in that province, is excited and believes they will enhance consumer confidence in the sport.

Barrier trials were introduced on an experimental basis in the Cape and Gauteng back in the 1990s and fizzled out after failing to make an impact, and as Phumelela CEO Rian du Plessis has pointed out, they come at a cost.

“Gold Circle can be commended for this initiative, but our position remains that the cost and additional wear on our turf surfaces is substantial,” he said.

“We have found no factual evidence substantiating that these negatives will be outweighed by the positives. We will monitor the situation very closely and will naturally change if our position is proved incorrect.” – Sporting Post.