Update: One horse did suffer non-fatal injuries in the mishap. Here is a video of the race in question.
A disaster was barely averted last night at Hoosier Park (TB) during the running of the eighth race when the tractor and back up tractor which pull the starting gate away after a race begins broke down, leaving the starting gate on the track. What made it more frightening is the race was a route tilt with the starting gate positioned near the top of the stretch.
What happened was a case of divine providence. The track announcer never warned the jockeys of the mishap so the jockeys were going full speed when they saw the starting gate looming right in front of them. Fortunately, no one got seriously hurt though two jockeys were tossed from their mounts when they pulled their mounts up sharply.
My question is if there is a way to warn jockeys of a problem and if so, why weren't they warned ahead of time of the problem? If there was no way to warn the jockeys, is it going to take a fatality or two before some type of contingency plan is implemented? While there are flashing lights around the track because harness racing takes place at Hoosier, other tracks run during the day so it may not be feasible to use warning lights, if they are even installed.
At thoroughbred tracks, sirens should be installed so if a similar situation occurs in the future, the sirens can warn the jockeys to pull up their horses as soon as safely possible and the race stopped. The decision point as to whether or not to sound the siren should be when the starting gate is not physically moving when there is a half mile remaining in the race. No one likes a no contest in racing, but I think protecting the lives of jockeys and horses dictates it.