Horse racing is no longer an Olympic sport, but the Olympics are having an impact on racing. For all but the most ingrained racing fan, they will inevitably overshadow all other sport for the next three weeks, which means even Frankel’s next race at Goodwood will be struggling for coverage in the daily papers.
I’m impressed as the foresight of whoever named one of the horses running in the 7.30 at Sandown tonight. It’s a three-year-old named Usain Colt, and must have been named with the intention of running him around now. The owners must be hoping that he’s fitter than the athlete he’s drawn his name from.
The Olympics are also the catalyst for a new initiative from Racing For Change, to be implemented today at Sandown, with Epsom and Kempton joining in shortly. In a move that is likely to have many traditionalists hot under the collar, the three tracks are to publish metric weights and distances alongside the familiar imperial measures we all know.
The drive behind the move is to make the sport more accessible to younger people, and the timing recognises that there will be many foreign sports visitors in the UK for the next few weeks, though it must be doubtful whether many of them will be heading to the races. Tonight’s card will have races ranging between 1,000 metres and 2,800 metres, though I’ll still think of them as five furlongs and a mile and three quarters.
All other countries in the world except for Ireland already use metric measurements for their racing, so this could well be the beginning of the end for miles and furlongs here. I hope that if the trial proves a success and the authorities decide they want to include metric measures on a permanent basis, it isn’t done at the expense of miles, furlongs, stones and pounds. Yes, I can adjust to metric, but I still don’t welcome it.
I’d much prefer to see the 1m 7f steeplechase in the athletics at the Olympic Stadium, but somehow, I know that won’t happen.