1996: The shape of things to come

Racing: Never, never on a Saturday
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The Independent Online
This will be racing's year of repentance. Lottery was the first winner of the sport's biggest single money-spinner, the Grand National, but it now also threatens to impoverish the turf following Camelot's claim on the leisure pound.

Racing's reaction has not started from the blocks, but this year there will be extra evening meetings (the increasingingly popular cards). More needs to be done, and it must be time for an alternative superbet to be instituted to draw back punters who previously backed horses but now speculate on a load of balls.

Another apology will have to come following the Derby, which will again, inevitably, be a disaster when it is run on a Saturday (and at an earlier time to accommodate football's European championship). Organisers will soon have to recognise that the Derby belongs on the first Wednesday in June, and moving it is rather like shifting Songs Of Praise to a Thursday afternoon. People do not like unilateral alterations in this land of tradition as Epsom's pathetic Derby meeting crowds demonstrated.

There is change also in the power base of National Hunt riding with a new wave of jockeys, and the championship likely to go to either Tony McCoy or David Bridgwater. The Flat jockeys' title should be less contentious as Lanfranco Dettori holds the sport like George Best did football.

Dettori will ride many of the Godolphin horses which are now simmering away gently in the heat of the Emirates. Unless the last two years have provided rogue evidence, the animals from Dubai will again have a marked advantage.

Godolphin's leader, Sheikh Mohammed, goes into the campaign for the first time in many years without the name of Henry Cecil among his employees. The Warren Place trainer has restocked his yard following the ugly split last year and will be keen to show it was the shooter and not the ammunition which brought success.

While Lammtarra won the Derby for Godolphin, Sheikh Mohammed has yet to capture the premier Classic in his own colours. Once again he has multiple entries and it could be that this is his year. It is to be hoped his first Derby will go down as the last to be run on a Saturday.

PREDICTION: Derby to return to a Wednesday after another poor Saturday reception.

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