Thousands given free taste of Turf

Racing for Change initiative lures big crowd to Ascot but trial of decimal odds goes down badly with bookies

Unlike several thousand others, it seemed safe to assume that Andrei Arshavin had not been tempted here yesterday by the prospect of free admission.

Sure enough, it turned out that the Russian football star was a guest of one of Ascot's new sponsors. But the people at Racing For Change, responsible for nine free meetings round the country this week, will be encouraged that Arshavin was by no means alone in appearing to enjoy an agreeable sample of life on the Turf.

Admittedly, they might acknowledge as no less typical the mystified looks worn by several prominent racing men, when their attention was drawn to the presence of one of the world's more famous footballers. But then that is precisely the challenge embraced by Racing For Change: to dismantle the barriers around the sport – whether these reflect its own, arcane ways, or the insular outlook of its professional community.

The dilemma remains, of course, that the sport's existing audience will be affronted by any crude new motorways through a cherished landscape. Sooner or later, presumably, they will be invited to exchange five furlongs for 1,000 metres, though a trial of decimal odds yesterday suggested that it will not be any day soon. The betting ring is a notoriously conservative environment, and only five bookmakers agreed to the trial. Charles Barnett, the Ascot chief executive, proved less reluctant, eagerly striking one of the ring's first ever decimal bets on the favourite for the opener. Generally showing at 4-11, Zebedee was instead offered at 0.36 and Barnett duly made £3.60 on his tenner.

At the risk of discouraging novices with precisely the sort of technicalities dreaded by Racing For Change, 0.36 itself represents a confusing departure from established decimal markets already familiar through betting exchanges and the Tote. These always incorporate the stake so that 2-1, for instance, is represented as 3.0. In effect, 0.36 was neither fish nor fowl, being a decimal representation of fractional odds.

Be that as it may, the trial went down so poorly with those bookmakers prepared to take part that it will be interesting to see how Racing For Change goes about persevering with the experiment. One, Barry Johnson, grumbled that he had missed out on the turnover on adjacent boards. "I gave up a day for an experiment, because I wanted to help," he said. "But it's been a complete waste of time."

Regardless, there is no arguing with the arrival of 19,215 people for a meeting that drew only 8,257 last year. Free admission, of course, is not on the project's overall agenda, so for this week to prove a lasting success the curiosity of newcomers needs to have been stimulated sufficiently to pay at the turnstiles next time.

And the seduction that works best will be precisely the same as that which first won the hearts of the sport's aficionados. Anyone discovering a frisson of pleasure in the acceleration of Zebedee, for instance, would surely like to see how he fares back here at the royal meeting, probably in the Norfolk Stakes. Who, moreover, could fail to be intrigued by this man Henry Cecil, who saddled Aviate to win the next race? Especially when they learn, as they should, of his dizzy rise and fall and the brave, precarious redemption condensed by the fact that Aviate is only one of three fillies in his care with the potential to become his ninth Oaks winner.

Cecil expects Aviate to improve considerably for her reappearance, and is confident that she will stay a mile and a quarter – though a longer trip again at Epsom would be another matter. With Principal Role heading to Newmarket on Sunday, and Timepiece to Lingfield on Saturday week, Aviate is likely to go for the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York on 12 May. Dansili, her sire, is not a conspicuous source of stamina but his son, Illustrious Blue, promptly flourished for an experimental run over two miles in the Moss Bros Sagaro Stakes – in the process completing an indelible hour in the life of his trainer, William Knight, who had just won a listed race with King Of Dixie. Here was one young man, at any rate, who could get used to days like these.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Gamesters Lady (6.30 Brighton)

Has not always seemed the most dependable creature but looks transformed since joining this stable in the winter, with three wins over hurdles.

Next best

Katy's Secret (2.40 Folkestone)

Began season needing just one more run to qualify for a modest handicap rating, and received little help from an inexperienced rider on her reappearance. Frankie Dettori will be more proactive.

One to watch

Issabella Gem (C G Cox) was set plenty to do in a strong fillies' maiden at Sandown on Friday, running green before staying on well for second, and is likely to prove useful over middle distances.

Where the money's going

Fencing Master is 10-1 from 16-1 with Totesport for Saturday's 2,000 Guineas.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?