Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

The Derby

THE power of football over other sports will be starkly illustrated tomorrow.

- one of the world's great horse races - was originally scheduled to go out live on BBC1 at 5pm.

But it has been brought forward by an hour to avoid a clash with England's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley.

The England match was moved to ITV's preferred 'teatime' slot - in this case 4.45pm - just ahead of the Britain's Got Talent final after the Derby's original scheduling plans were in place.

Few can blame the Epsom organisers for appearing to back down to King Football.

In spite of a potentially thrilling narrative, in which the Queen has a great chance of a first-ever Derby success with the fancied Carlton House, racing chiefs accept that they cannot hope to compete with an important football match.

As it turned out, the plot took another twist, with Carlton House sustaining an injury that placed his participation in doubt. The news apparently prompted a 'stoic' reaction from the Queen. When one is going for one's first Derby success, it is certainly an admirable reaction to a worrying report.

was also given added spice when Kieren Fallon abandoned an apparent commitment to the owners of Native Khan to ride Recital - trainer Aidan O'Brien's big hope.

The increasing willingness of other sports to fit around football was shown this month by rugby, with Magners League organisers slotting key matches in and around both the FA Cup final and the Champions League decider.

But the GAA truly bucked the trend last Saturday night by going head-to-head with the glamour showdown between Manchester United and Barcelona at Wembley, scheduling the Ulster Championship clash of Armagh and Down in direct opposition to the Champions League showpiece.

Whether they will attempt such a move again remains to be seen, with ticket sales for the match reported to be slow in the build-up and a crowd of 13,107 falling well short of the 19,500 capacity.

In truth, football matches such as an attractive Champions League final are few and far between.

But racing has bitten the bullet and accepted that the Derby - a truly showpiece event - would benefit from an earlier start, away from the football.

And, if Carlton House does win for the Queen, what a boost that would be for the Sport of Kings just ahead of Royal Ascot later this month.

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