Racing: Dawn of evening Sky

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The Independent Online
SKY racing for the first time since Pegasus starts this evening with live coverage on the satellite station's sports channel.

The abandonment of the Perth card means that the opening programme of a six-week trial run will take in only the last four races of Uttoxeter's hunter-chase meeting.

So while the more familiar sporting names of Ian Wright and Chris Waddle will be assessed during the Cup Final replay on terrestrial channels, Jeff Stelling, Sky's racing anchorman, and studio guest Peter Scudamore will be discussing the merits of those including Mr G Barfoot-Saunt (claiming 7lb).

In coming weeks, the experts' chair at Sky will be occupied by Steve Smith Eccles and possibly Colin Brown, while Willie Carson and John Gosden are to be invited to elucidate on Flat racing later in the month.

'The name of the game will be to walk the tightrope between the absolute racing fanatic and general sports fans,' Stelling says. 'To treat it seriously enough for experts to appreciate it, but, at the same time, because it's a sports channel, we're desperately keen to pick up people who are not complete racing fanatics, those who might just watch the Derby and the National.'

The twice-weekly production, after tonight's truncated pilot, will feature seven races, and the programme is expected to appeal to those with access to pubs with dishes on the roof as well as in the kitchen. Despite the fact that punters may be lured from betting shops to watch the pub sport, bookmakers applaud the arrival of this new coverage.

'We feel any live pictures are good for the industry and we don't envisage a downturn in betting in the shops,' Mike Dillon, of Ladbrokes, said yesterday. 'We believe there will be an upsurge in credit accounts from people betting in the comfort of their own homes and that the debit-card business will be popular as well.'