Good Friday racing at Lingfield & Musselburgh as history is made

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport
Runners leaving the stalls at Lingfield racecourse

History will be made as horse racing takes place for the first time in the UK on Good Friday - at Lingfield in Surrey and Scottish track Musselburgh.

Lingfield's finale to a new all-weather racing championshipsexternal-link boasts a total of £1m in prize money for seven races.

Track officials expect a crowd of over 7,000, with Musselburgh set to welcome 4,000 racegoers.

"It's catching people's imagination," said Kate Hills, spokeswoman for Lingfield owners Arena Racing.

Grandeur, the mount of three-time champion jockey Ryan Moore for trainer Jeremy Noseda, and Ed Vaughan's Winter Derby winner Robin Hoods Bay head the field for the concluding Easter Classic.

Musselburgh, which also stages racing on Sunday, switches its Saturday card to Friday and hopes to host a three-day Easter weekend festival in the future.

While there have been murmurs of opposition on religious grounds, the move to introduce meetings on one of the few blank days in the racing calendar has been broadly welcomed by trainers and owners.

"Maybe people have accepted it will happen. I'm all for giving people choice," Musselburgh general manager Bill Farnsworth told BBC Sport.

"I think there was a bigger reaction when Sunday racing was introduced some years ago."

Some riders initially expressed concerns about losing time off, but the British Horseracing Authority has introduced a four-day break for jump jockeys after the climax of their season on 26 April.

Organisers of two racing charity open days, at Lambournexternal-link in Berkshire and Middleham,external-link North Yorkshire, were also worried about a clash.

Hills said two large television screens, which will show the Lingfield action, were being loaned to both events and a £10,000 donation made to each.

"One of the reasons we are having racing on Good Friday is it's a day of leisure and people are looking for something to do," she said.

At Lingfield, there were 96 horses declared for the fixture, with maximum fields for five of the seven contests.

Lingfield ahead of its Good Friday fixture
The winner's enclosure in front of the main Lingfield stand

Farnsworth hopes a future three-day meeting at Musselburgh, just outside Edinburgh, could feature a mix of both racing codes on the Friday and Saturday.

He said: "It would be good to have a Flat race involving Flat and jump jockeys, and you could also have a hurdles race involving both. They are all good horsemen and you could have a bit of fun with it."

Friday sees the popular veteran racehorse Borderlescott come out of retirement to run in a race named after him.

"He's a great northern sprinter who was retired and we asked the owners if they would parade him," said Farnsworth.

"They said he was fit and have entered him to run at the age of 12. He would be a very popular winner."

All-weather Championships, Lingfield

13:45 BST £50,000 All-Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap (1m 4f)

14:20 £150,000 All-Weather Fillies' & Mares' Championships Conditions Stakes (7f)

14:55 £150,000 32Red All-Weather Three-Year-Old Championships Conditions Stakes (7f)

15:30 £150,000 32Red Casino All-Weather Marathon Championships Conditions Stakes (1m 7f 169y)

16:05 £150,000 All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes (6f)

16:40 £150,000 Ladbrokes All-Weather Mile Championships Conditions Stakes (1m)

17:20 £200,000 Coral Easter Classic All-Weather Middle-Distance Championships Conditions Stakes (1m 2f)

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