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Major racing fixture change confirmed as bosses admit trial 'did not deliver'

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THE BHA has scrapped Sunday night horse racing, saying the pilot scheme ‘did not deliver what we had hoped’.

Racing’s bosses launched a trial period of Sunday evening racing earlier this year in the hope of capturing more punters in a ‘new betting session’.

Southwell hosted one of the Sunday evening meetings under a pilot scheme which has been scrapped by the BHA for now

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Southwell hosted one of the Sunday evening meetings under a pilot scheme which has been scrapped by the BHA for nowCredit: Getty

But it was quickly met with hostility from a number of jockeys, trainers and yard workers amid concerns over work-life balance.

Six Sunday evening fixtures took place between January 7 and March 10.

Each was made up of races of Class 3 and below, with prize money totalling at least £145,000 and additional payments for jockeys, grooms and others attending the meetings.

The BHA concluded after the trial that, while the meetings were competitive with strong field numbers, they didn’t attract the betting interest they were hoping for.

A BHA statement on Monday said: “Having considered the feedback and recommendations, the Board decided that no further pilot fixtures should be programmed at this stage.”

But it was stressed that a decision had been made on a relatively small sample size.

The statement added: “Consideration will also be given to any further data that emerges around the potential for Sunday evening racing, which may become available during the summer months as some Premier Racedays are scheduled to run until 7pm.”

BHA Chair, Joe Saumarez Smith, said: “Although we have learnt some valuable lessons from the short trial, having considered the evidence, feedback and the recommendation from the Commercial Committee, the Board has agreed that no further Sunday evening fixtures should be programmed at this stage.

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“However, while the pilot did not deliver what we had hoped, there was a recognition of the challenges presented by making a decision based on such a small sample, especially when the data varied so significantly across the fixtures.

“It’s also the case that new concepts, which include behaviour change from the betting public, are likely to take time to settle in.

Epsom Downs Racecourse home of the Epsom Derby

“The Board concluded that the concept of Sunday evening racing is not something that should be dismissed and that it would like a further and longer trial to take place, where circumstances permit, to gather additional data.”

While the BHA’s Director of Racing & Betting, Richard Wayman, said: “The trial of the six Sunday evening meetings was an informative and worthwhile exercise as we seek to grow engagement with our sport at a time when we face some difficult financial headwinds.

“We wanted to test the viability of racing in a window that was thought to have the potential to boost racing’s income, especially among digital customers.

“But it was clear from the outset that this would be challenging, especially for those who would be servicing the fixtures.

“Innovation in the racing product is, and will continue to be, a key part of the industry’s wider strategy work.

“It’s important that we aren’t afraid to try different things and that the sport is open to new ideas – recognising that some proposals will inevitably enjoy greater success than others.”

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