If Chris or Matt has a Stat of the Day selection in the first race at Brighton on 21 September it really will be a case of the early bird catching the worm. The meeting two weeks on Friday sees a second experiment with what became known as Matinee Meetings.
Race meetings with a late morning start were last tried out in 2005, with the hope of encouraging Saturday morning punters to stay on in the betting shops until the afternoon racing began. The experiment was unsuccessful and soon abandoned. In their new incarnation, the series of six meetings in the trial will take place on Fridays, with the first race at 12 noon on each card. They are:
21st September, Brighton (Flat)
28th September, Stratford (Jump)
5th October, Yarmouth (Flat)
12th October, Bath (Flat)
19th October, Fakenham (Jump)
26th October, Newcastle (Jump)
As well as these meetings, Wolverhampton will stage four extra twilight meetings on 9, 16 and 30 October, and 6 November, with the first race ten minutes after the final race on the afternoon card. The Levy Board is supporting the fixtures with up to £220,000 from its Racing and Betting Special Incentive Fund.
In a press release, Ruth Quinn, Director of Racing for the BHA, said, "Six of the additional meetings announced for September and October will take place at an earlier start time than is usual for the time of the year. Given that they are additional meetings rather than replacing abandonments, these fixtures provided us with the opportunity to trial the concept of showing British racing during a lunchtime slot during the autumn.
Betting shops are traditionally busy at these times and bookmakers have indicated that they would like British Racing to be offered at this time, as it is during the winter months. We will measure the outcomes of this trial and consider any future matinee fixtures once we have had an opportunity to review the feedback and data we obtain. The fixture list and race programme should be shaped around where the demand is from the sport's various customers, while always factoring in the ability to meet that demand with regard to the horse population."
Speaking for Coral bookmakers, David Stevens told the Racing Post, “There is no doubt that meeting starting at midday are going to fall into what is traditionally a busy time of day in our shops, so we obviously welcome their introduction. There is going to be a slight element of the unknown going into it because it has been quite a while since Britain has had matinee racing, but certainly at the time of year they are being stages we would be optimistic there will be plenty of interest in our shops.”
Set your alarm clocks early chaps.