Racing: Royal seal for racing on Sunday

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The Independent Online
THE CAMPAIGN for Sunday racing received an endorsement from the highest social echelon yesterday when Top Register, owned by the Queen, was among 193 entries for Doncaster's frontier-breaching meeting this weekend. This puts the monarch in direct opposition to current government policy, which prohibits racing with cash betting on a Sunday and so restricts the sport to just one of the two leisure days.

The Jockey Club have applied stringent regulations to ensure that neither the Sunday Observance Act nor the Betting and Gaming legislation is contravened when Doncaster stage a seven- race card to demonstrate the attractions of Sunday racing. Nevertheless the presence of Top Register in the day's main race places the Queen at the centre of the Jockey Club's quiet revolution. It is an irony that will not be lost on the Home Office.

Owners and trainers have advanced an unmistakable message of support for Sunday racing by entering an average of nearly 28 horses for the seven events. However, a sense of political outrage at the web of restrictive laws is not the only motivation: the least valuable race on Sunday is worth pounds 6,620, and the main attraction is endowed with pounds 20,000 in prize- money, so racing has succeeded in enticing runners through hard cash as much as campaigning zeal. Entry fees were halved and rewards are on offer down to sixth place.

'The number of entries is above normal for the time of year, and we are most grateful to owners and trainers for their support', John Sanderson, Doncaster's clerk of the course, said yesterday. 'A great deal of time and trouble went into the design of the races, which cover a wide range of opportunities.'

The Queen is not the only prominent figure represented. Among the trainers with intended runners are John Gosden, Barry Hills, Richard Hannon, Clive Brittain, Henry Cecil, Luca Cumani, Michael Stoute and John Dunlop. The Maktoum family and Khalid Abdullah, racing's leading owners, have compiled strong teams, and Young Buster and Twist And Turn are among the equine luminaries.

Though just about every other sport charges for admission on Sundays in defiance of the Sunday Observance Act, Doncaster will not levy a direct charge on the 15- 17,000 spectators Sanderson expects to attend. Instead, a clause in the law has been exploited enabling a pounds 5 fee to be collected (children under 16 go free) for 'musical entertainment'. A brass band will head off any judicial scrutiny.

'The absence of bookmakers on the course is bound to deter the hard-core racegoer, and I can't blame them', Sanderson said. 'A substantial ingredient of horse racing is the betting, but we have to comply with the law.' Punters will be encouraged to take a price at the time a bet is struck, either in cash the day before or through credit and debit accounts any time over the weekend.

Coral, the bookmakers, have already rendered the restrictions on betting shop opening absurd. From yesterday it was possible to bet on a Sunday race by virtue of the fact that Coral have opened an ante- post book on the event they sponsor, and which opens the meeting.

Gosden's Deprecator is 7-1 favourite, but more important than the details is the parodying of laws even the Queen evidently cannot respect.

(Photograph omitted)

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