by Renee Israel
Three London racecourses began trialling the use of metric weights and
measures this week, at the initiative of Racing for Change, the group which
wants to see changes to the measurement units traditionally used at British
horse racing courses.
Although furlongs and pounds will continue to be used at the racecourses,
they will also include metric weights and measures at the three racecourses from
this week as foreign visitors descend on the capital for the 2012 London
It is believed that many Olympic fans will visit Sandown, Epsom and Kempton
in the next month as they combine horseracing with Olympic action.
Britain, Ireland, the United States and Canada still use the furlong (one
eighth of a mile) at their racetracks, but this measurement has been abandoned
by others such as Australia, the Far East and European countries.
Racing for Change has initiated measurement changes at London racecourses
through the introduction of metric signs on the furlong markers. In addition,
for the first time, the jockey's weight on the racecard will be listed in
kilograms as well as stones and pounds.
Worthwhile Experiment for UK Horsracing
The Chief Executive of Racing for Change, Rod Street said that
the trial could be a prelude to a possible extension of the new metric system,
however, there are no expected changes to the furlong system for the time being.
"On a personal level, I think the furlong is one of those things
that make racing special and unique," said Street, "but at a time of the year
when we do expect to see more families and some international visitors coming
racing, we thought it was a worthwhile experiment."
His sentiments were echoed by superstar jockey, Frankie Dettori
who said: "This is a great idea when so many tourists will be visiting Britain
for the Olympics. In Italy, I grew up with metrics so it's second nature to me,
as well as to my kids, but I can understand why they're running them side by
side since many racegoers are happier with Britain's Imperial measures."
Racing Concerned with Legislation Changes
In the meantime, British Racing is concerned over attempts by several MPs to
bring about changes to the gambling landscape and lift the restrictions on the
number of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT)s at betting shops.
This may result in racing losing a share of betting shop turnovers.
The Head of External Affairs for the British Horseracing Authority, Will
Lambe, said: "Racing has long sought to move to a relationship with the betting
industry that is mutually beneficial and sees our commercial interests aligned.
It is natural that in such an environment we would want the British betting
industry to thrive, but at this stage, we do not see a justification for the
increase in FOBT numbers."