The Racing Channel was launched late last year, but until 1 May it was forced to end its transmissions at 4pm, which by April was barely half- way through the afternoon's cards. Now, with an extra three hours each day, the station is hoping to increase its list of subscribers from around 15,000 towards its year-one target of 25,000. That push can only be assisted by Lingfield's decision to sign up with TRC, rather than have its two most important races of the year shunted to a mid-morning slot by the Cup-obsessed BBC.
What will not help, it must be said, is the quality of this year's renewals. Both appear to consist of second and third-string Classic candidates, while Henry Cecil's Dovaly, who has a major chance in the Derby Trial, is not even entered for Epsom. None the less, Lingfield must be congratulated for refusing to bow before the might of football, unlike its Surrey neighbour which brought forward the off-time for the Derby to avoid a clash with Euro '96. The resurgence of the national game is to be welcomed, but other sports need to stand up for themselves if they are not to suffer as a result.
Dovaly (3.45), who beat John Gosden's highly rated Sacho in a maiden at Newmarket last month, should beat Heron Island in the Derby Trial, and many will fancy Cecil to complete a double with Lady Carla in the Oaks Trial.
A measure of the unusually poor quality of this year's race - it is only four years since User Friendly completed the Lingfield/Epsom double - is the fact that three of the five entries are maidens. Lady Carla was a winner on her only start last year, but will probably start at a prohibitive price and Moody's Cat (4.15), the other runner with a victory to her name, may offer some value. Barry Hills's filly was though worthy of a run in the Prix Marcel Boussac last autumn, and should improve for today's step up to 12 furlongs.
The most significant card this weekend is at Longchamp tomorrow, where the British challenge for the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) is so strong that the locals may wish they could ban imports of our horses, too. Six of the 10 runners are from our side of the Channel, including Danehill Dancer, who could finish only a distant sixth behind Mark Of Esteem in the Newmarket Guineas last weekend.
If Danehill Dancer wins or goes close, it will be a further strong indication that the middle ground on the Rowley Mile was far slower than that on the stands' rail. That would add to the embarrassment of Nick Lees, the clerk of the course, who continues to insist that no such strip of false ground existed, but if Ladbrokes odds on the race are to be trusted, Lees has little to worry about.
That firm makes the Aga Khan's Ashkalani the even-money favourite for tomorrow's Classic, which seems remarkably short on the basis of his win in a slowly run Group Three event.
Better value clearly lies elsewhere and Cayman Kai, the Free Handicap winner, is interesting at 10-1, but the price which stands out is the 14-1 against Gothenberg (Sunday 4.05). Mark Johnston's colt put up the best performance of his career to take the Tetrarch Stakes at The Curragh by six lengths, and his trainer would not have supplemented him - for pounds 13,500 - unless he believed him to have a serious chance.
The Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas) should stay at home, with Elie Lellouche's Shake The Yoke (Sunday 3.35) able to resist the challenge of A Votre Sante, trained by Criquette Head. Shawanni (Barry Hills) and Ta Rib, Ed Dunlop's first Classic runner, form the British entry. The Prix Lupin, the day's third Group One, should be another for Lellouche, thanks to his French Derby candidate, Helissio.
LONGCHAMP (3.05, Prix Lupin, 1m 2f 110yd): Le Triton (Mme C Head) F Head; Fort Nottingham (J Hammond) C Asmussen; Cachet Noir (P Bary) F Grenet; Helissio (E Lellouche) D Boeuf; Loup Solitaire (A Fabre) O Peslier.Reuse content