'Trainer' is put out to stud

IF A RACEHORSE proves a dud on the track it sometimes performs better when put out to stud. That formula has been applied to Trainer, the dramatic horse racing series that played to disappointing audiences (about eight million) on BBC 1 last year. When it returns next month for a second season it will show less racing and a lot more sex.

The BBC lured television critics and media writers to Newbury racecourse yesterday to preview an episode of the new pounds 3m series. The last season had been criticised for wooden acting, limp characterisation, leaden plots and, above all, lack of romantic interest.

But Tony Osborne, the script editor, said yesterday: 'We started again from scratch - more characters, more plot and more sex.'

The episode shown to the Press was the third of the new series. 'We chose it very carefully,' Gerard Glaister, the producer, said. It was easy to see why. Less than five minutes from the off Susannah York, playing the widow Rachel Ware, was romping in bed with a millionaire bloodstock owner.

Later on the trainer himself, Mike Hardy, played by Mark Greenslade, was in flagrante delicto with an investment banker who had been sent to put his stable into receivership. In between, two stable folk romped on Newbury Downs and there was a racy three-in-a-bed episode, mercifully played off-camera.

The received opinion about the first series was that the producers were so besotted with the lyrical images of racing - the strings of racehorses on the dewy downs at dawn, the races played out in slow motion - that they had forgotten the characterisation.

'We have more and stronger characters this time,' Mr Glaister said. 'And it's a serial rather than a series. The plot continues from one episode to the next, so we hope people will keep watching.'

Last winter Trainer played on Sunday evenings. This time it will be on a week day - but the precise day is being kept secret. It will begin before the 9pm watershed when children are supposed to stop viewing. This means that the sex will never be too explicit.

Will Trainer train on as a three- year-old? In television, as in racing, nothing is certain.