Sabbath stakes make first run

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History was made yesterday when horse racing and betting took place on a Sunday for the first time in Britain.

The venue for this landmark occasion - neither Newmarket nor Ascot - was Tweseldown, near Aldershot, in Hampshire, where the Garth & South Berks Hunt staged its annual point-to-point in Church Crookham.

While there has been some limited racing on a Sunday in Britain before - at Doncaster, Cheltenham and Lingfield - this is the first time that there has been racing with betting.

Football, cricket and other major sports have long competed on a Sunday but amendments were required to the Deregulation Bill before horse racing with betting could go ahead seven days a week.

Betting on course and in high street shops became legal at the start of the year in the culmination of a 30-year campaign by the Jockey Club. The first major Sunday meetings will be held at Newmarket and Salisbury on 7 May.

Yesterday's event was marred by the deaths of a veteran bookmaker and a horse taking part in the first race. Pip Sims, from Winnersh, Berkshire, suffered a suspected cardiac arrest. Paramedics attempted to revive him but Mr Sims, 83, a racecourse bookmaker for 60 years, died in the ambulance. During the day's opening race, Sword Field broke its neck and died instantly when falling.

A crowd of nearly 4,000 flocked to Tweseldown to witness the dawn of a new era for the sport. Yesterday's six-race meeting - the first of 26 Sunday point-to-points to be staged in 1995 - was welcomed as the start of a "tremendous opportunity for racing as a whole" by a Jockey Club steward, Michael Henriques.

There was even conditional support from the Church, represented by Lyn Ferraby, a lay reader from Hook, who delivered the "Sermon on the Mound" from the well-known hill in the centre of the course.