Racing: Christmas cards vetoed by courses

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The Independent Online

Racing on Christmas Day and Good Friday, is nothing sacred?

Racing on Christmas Day and Good Friday, is nothing sacred? Mercifully for punters, the major tracks quickly distanced themselves from the proposition in the Government's Gambling Bill proposal yesterday that they could open on Christmas Day, labelling it "historically and morally a special family day". Good Friday, though, may no longer be a day that the wallet gets a rest, as the British Horseracing Board suggested that it will be examining the possibility of racing taking place on that day for the first time.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's controversial proposals must first make their way through Parliament. If they succeed, then there will be repercussions for the status quo within the gambling industry, with betting shops facing increased competition from casinos, while bookmakers will have greater social responsibility placed on their shoulders to ensure vulnerable punters are not exploited.

Betting debts would also become recoverable by law and cheating at gambling would be more effectively dealt with in court as it would be a criminal offence. It could be tried either summarily or on indictment. On summary conviction the penalty would carry a maximum term or imprisonment of 51 weeks and/or a fine up to £5,000. On conviction on indictment the maximum penalty would be imprisonment for up to two years, an unlimited fine, or both. You have been warned.

Other issues affecting the industry such as how betting exchanges are treated and the categorisation of fixed-odds betting terminals, will not be explained in detail until secondary legislation is published

On the subject of Christmas and Easter fixtures, the BHB communications manager, Alan Delmonte, said: "Christmas Day has never been an option. With us not racing on 23 and 24 December this year or next, it shows a willingness to have a break at that time. We may have a different view on Good Friday in the future.

"In other sports it is regarded as just a normal day, so racing on Good Friday is something we may look at."

Not to be outdone in the field of controversial proposals, the European Pattern Race Committee yesterday looked favourably on plans to cut the distance of the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) to 10 and a half furlongs from the traditional Classic middle distance of a mile and a half.

Other changes to key races would see the Grand Prix de Paris, currently run over 10 furlongs at Longchamp in June, and 12-furlong Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, run at Saint-Cloud in early July, losing their current identities. The former would be run over a mile and a half at Saint-Cloud on 14 July, while the latter would be run at Longchamp on 26 July and be closed to three-year-olds.

On the track yesterday there were eye-catching performances at Exeter from the Arkle Chase-bound Sporazene and useful former Flat horse Salsalino. At Bath, Frankie Dettori could not extend his jockeys' title lead over Kieren Fallon, who returns at Nottingham today.

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