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Epsom Derby Organizers Considering Running The Race At Night

Epsom Derby Organizers Considering Running The Race At Night

14.07.2014, by Jim
Epsom Derby Organizers Considering Running The Race At Night&h=223&w=348&zc=1

Horse racing is a sport steeped in tradition and change–particularly a dramatic change–is often met with skepticism bordering on paranoia. That is especially true in Great Britain–a country known for its reverence to tradition. Both of these realities are why the organizers of the Epsom Derby have generated a lot of controversy with their proposal to move the race to the nighttime in hopes of attracting a wider audience.

The Epson Derby has declined in popularity since the BBC stopped covering the race and it moved to the less prestigious Channel 4 in 2013. The live attendance is still fairly strong thanks to the party atmosphere surrounding the race but it has suffered badly in television viewership. The peak viewership of the 2014 Epson Derby was 1.55 million viewers–less than half the viewership that the race enjoyed in 2012 when last televised by the BBC. The move to a nighttime race could help TV viewership significantly–according to the race’s managing director Rupert Trevelyan every hour later the race starts ‘could be worth another million viewers’.

There is a potential problem for the 2015 race–a move to an evening start time would put the race in direct competition for eyeballs with the Champions’ League soccer final. This would likely negate some–if not all–of the viewership boost from making the move. Bookmakers typically favor any move that boosts the popularity and viewership of the race–after all, the more Epsom Derby betting that takes place the more money they make. Their community is generally in favor of the move but has urged organizers to wait until 2016 when they won’t have to compete against the Champions’ League final. David Williams of Ladbrokes provided a voice of reason with this comment: “Racing has to understand that when it goes head-to-head with big football events it comes off second-best.”

England being England there’s also another important consideration–would Her Majesty the Queen be able to attend a nighttime race? The Queen is a well known horse racing enthusiasts who owns racehorses herself and according to managing director Trevelyan “The presence of the Queen is paramount and she will be consulted before we make any such change.”

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