Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 29 May 2016

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Is Good Friday suitable for racing?

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

With Frank Brownlow

Published 03/10/2013

The British Horseracing Authority yesterday gave its approval to racing on Good Friday
The British Horseracing Authority yesterday gave its approval to racing on Good Friday

The decision to allow horse racing on Good Friday could put one of Northern Ireland's most popular sports in a tricky situation.

The British Horseracing Authority yesterday finally gave its approval to racing on Good Friday.

And although our two local racetracks – Down Royal and Downpatrick – come under the control of the Irish racing authorities, the sport in Britain and Ireland is closely linked and it is only a matter of time before the issue is raised here.

Sunday racing was first staged in Northern Ireland in 2004 – amid protests – and whether there would be an appetite for Good Friday racing remains to be seen.

Limited alcohol licensing hours operate on Good Friday, a traditionally low-key day socially.

By contrast, racing trades on its thriving social scene, perhaps making Good Friday an unsuitable day on which to stage the sport.

One leading Ulster racing figure would not discuss the subject on the record but questioned the public's desire for Good Friday racing.

Good Friday is one of the few days on which no racing is held and the Professional Jockeys Association says most of its members don't want that to change.

Another important development will see a four-day break at the end of the National Hunt season in April.

That's good news for Ulsterman Tony McCoy, who should be crowned champion jockey for a record 19th successive time.

Incredibly, after many of those title triumphs, McCoy's defence began the very next day.

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