AN impassioned plea by jockey Jimmy Cassidy to protect punters fell on stewards' deaf ears after the first race at Rosehill yesterday.
Cassidy and favourite News Alert blew any chance of victory when the horse reared in the gates and missed the start of The Spring Is Schweppes Handicap (1200m) by five lengths.
The Pumper told a stewards' inquiry on three separate occasions that the Garry White-trained gelding, who was chasing a hat-trick, should have been declared a non-runner and punters' money refunded.
News Alert, who started $2, failed to get past a horse and was beaten more than seven lengths behind Opter ($21).
"In fairness to the connections and the punters who have backed this horse, I believe this horse has been denied a fair start,'' Cassidy told chief steward Ray Murrihy.
"Had it been the horse's own doing I could understand. But the horse was in mid-air and had 100 per cent no chance of beginning or participating in the race; in this situation I was denied 110 per cent a fair start.''
Under racing's rules, a horse can be declared a non-runner if it has its head in another stall when the field jumps or a gate fails to open.
Cassidy said the horse reared once and was attended to before leaping again when assistant starter Peter Svendsen pressed the button.
Svendsen said there would have been a "milli-second'' between the horse rearing up and the gates opening. Murrihy ruled that the horse had cost itself the race by being fractious in the barrier.
His decision drew an angry response from Cassidy and White, the jockey standing up out of his seat to further plead his case and pointing to the big-screen television.