Evans’ to thank for Hobart Cup barrier release

When the gates crash back to release the field for Sunday’s Group 3 Ladbrokes Hobart Cup, it will be a special moment for David and Justin Evans.

The father and son combination released the Hobart Cup field for the first time in the 2022 edition of the race won by Ho Ho Khan, but David has been on the starter's ladder going back into the 1980's.

"This will be coming up to about my 32nd Hobart Cup and altogether I've been working on them for nearly 40 years," said David Evans who also works as relief in both Devonport and Launceston.

On a Cup Day with full fields, big crowds and often fizzed up horses, the job of making sure the field is released on time often isn't an easy one.

"The starter is in charge of everyone at the start including jockeys, horses, barrier attendants, the vet and even ambulance crew if they're needed," explained David adding the difficulties that come with managing inexperienced horses, particularly first starters.

Diving into the memory bank, David recalls the 1992 Hobart Cup win of Russian Rogue as one that was particularly troublesome for the starter.

"Russian Rogue had a bad gate that he was standing in, there was a horse a few stalls down from him that kept kicking the back of the gates and Russian Rogue's gate kept coming open and he would pop through.

"I think he got through three times, and he ended up winning the Cup," David laughed.

More than 30 years on from the Cup win of Russian Rogue, David remains in the starter's position and having his son Justin involved is something he says was a long time in the making.

"I used to work with the TRC (Tasmanian Racing Club) and the boys would come down and play with the barriers that were on the infield for trainers to practice.

"Nine times out of 10 they'd be in there pretending they were horses and leading each other in, but they couldn't shut the gates they weren't strong enough back then," David laughed referring to Justin and his brother Josh who is also involved in the racing industry in a variety of race day roles.

Justin Evans, who on top of his Assistant Starter position is also Track Steward in Devonport, backs up his father's assessment of his introduction into racing.

"Both sides of the family are involved in racing. Mum is Gary White's (Hall of Fame trainer) sister, so I worked for Uncle Gary for a lot of years before I left school.

"I've been going to the races since before I could walk," said Justin.

David says that having his son as the Assistant Starter has generated a new fulfilment in the starter role which may see him release plenty more Cup fields after Sunday.

"I'm not sure how many more years I'll be doing it for, but I still really enjoy it, particularly now Justin's involved.

"I think Justin will keep doing it while I keep doing it and it's great to have your son follow in your footsteps."

When David does call time on his career, it doesn't sound like the search for a replacement will need to go very far.

"I really enjoy starting races, you get an adrenaline rush and there's lot more that goes on behind the scenes than people see.

"I'd love to keep on going with it when dad finishes up, whenever that may be," said Justin.

Racing and Sports