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Trial of new race times gets the thumbs-up from punters' group

Wetherby: will host races with non-standard times this weekend
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The group representing punters' interests is eager to see if the introduction of non-standard race times in Britain on a trial basis from Saturday will help put an end to the upward trend of races going off at least two minutes late.

Analysis by the Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) indicated 39 per cent of all-weather races and 38 per cent of turf races started two minutes after post time last year, up from 26 per cent and 30 per cent respectively in 2015.

The four-week trial, which will consist of 11 racedays, was announced by the BHA last month, in conjunction with Horse Racing Ireland, in an attempt to avoid races clashing to reduce the need for requests to delay races and to improve the viewing experience of off-course bettors and spectators.

The move has been welcomed by the HBF, although chairman Colin Hord is keen for racecourses to make an extra effort to get races off on, or near to, post time and to identify areas that could be contributing to the delays.

He said: "We applaud the move to go to non-standard times as we think it will give increased flexibility to racecourse to run races to avoid clashes. 

"What we really hope to see during the trials is racecourses putting extra effort into getting races off on time.

"Whenever you're dealing with animals you're going to have things come up, and we recognise it's the case that this can impact things, but we are seeing more delays than ever before."

The John Durkan, won by Min last month, shared a split-screen with the Peterborough Chase

Wetherby hosts the first fixture with races run at times not at five-minute intervals, with the first race set to go off at 1.03 and the final race scheduled for 4.33.

Clashing races have been in the spotlight after Racing TV was forced to use a split-screen to show the Peterborough Chase and John Durkan Chase last month, while a second dedicated channel was brought in by the broadcaster for December 26 to prevent similar split-screen clashes for viewers.

The move to improve the off-course experience for racing viewers has been worked on for a number of years by the BHA, and Paul Johnson, head of racing, believes the move to non-standard times has the potential to make things better and identify problem areas.

He said: "We've been working to improve the output for consumers for a number of years now, probably five plus, and this is about finding that next bit of improvement. 

"Running a raceday is extremely complex and any number of things can happen that lead to delays. In providing an environment where we can stick to the race times, it then allows us to identify areas which we can improve and do better.

"We have a month's trial and at the end of it we will review each of the days in question and what the background was to any delays. It will be helpful for us to do it this way." 

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What we really hope to see during the trials is to see racecourses put extra effort into getting races off on time

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