Racing: Sunday date for Derby in 1996

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SUNDAY racing, with betting on and off course, will take place in Britain in the New Year. An amendment to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill was passed in the House Of Commons yesterday by 290 votes to 189 to pave the way for a new departure in the sport.

There will also be an amendment to one of the turf's best known statistics: that the Derby is run on the first Wednesday in June. Immediate reaction to yesterday's ruling was that the world's best known Flat race may be run on a Sunday as early as 1996.

When told of the vote, Tristram Ricketts, the Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Board, borrowed a gesture from another sport. He punched the air. 'We can now anticipate racing in 1995 on a Sunday and hope to have six to 12 days with two meetings on a Sunday,' Ricketts said.

There was jubilation also from Lord Hartington, the Senior Steward of the Jockey Club. 'With regard to the Derby in 1995, it is too early to say, it is up to the racecourse. But it should be possible by 1996,' he said.

The debate on the amendment tabled by Jim Paice, the Conservative MP for Cambridgeshire South East, was not entirely harmonious, however. There were dissenting voices on religious grounds, from those who did not want to encourage gambling and others with fears for those in the industry who will have increased workloads, principally betting-shop staff and stable lads.

Peter Kilfoyle, the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, saw the vote as acceptance of gambling. 'I think it's a sickness that ought to be treated not a sickness that ought to be encouraged,' he said.

Dissent also came from Alasdair Barron, of the Keep Sunday Special campaign. 'The shape of an industry has been changed under the guise of throwing away a few archaic rules,' he said, adding that the lowly paid section of racing's workforce would be the sufferers. 'They will get more pressure to work on Sunday, which means they will have less quality time with their families,' he said. 'Inadequate employment protection is proposed for betting shop workers and nothing at all is proposed for stable lads.'

The objectors, though, do not have a powerful voice within government. Neil Hamilton, the junior Trade and Industry minister, said: 'I cannot myself see that as a result of the changes the nation will suddenly be plunged into a hell hole of gambling, the like of which we have never seen before.'

Racing, page 33