London Racecourses Go Metric
This summer, three London racecourses – Sandown Park, Kempton Park and Epsom Downs - plan to trial the use of metric weights and distances as a way of making the sport more accessible to overseas visitors and younger adults.
With an aim to to make Britain’s £10 billion horseracing industry more appealing to the widest possible audience, it is believed that the use of imperial measures leaves many younger adults confused, with the vast majority of the UK population and much of the world now using metric measures exclusively.
In UK racing, the furlong is used along with miles to describe race distances, even though this archaic medieval unit is not used in any other sport or industry. The word ‘furlong’ derives from the Old English words furh (furrow) and lang (long) and, in Anglo-Saxon times, referred to the length of the furrow in one acre of a ploughed field.
Imperial units are also the norm in British racing, when the allotted weights of jockeys are described on race cards, with stones and pounds shown instead of kilos.
However, this is all about to change this summer when the three main London racecourses – Epsom Downs, Kempton Park and Sandown Park – will be trialling the side-by-side usage of metric and imperial measures.
According to Frankie Dettori: “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.”
The first to go metric will be Sandown Park at their evening fixture on 25th July, which also features a post-racing performance from Opera and musical superstar, Alfie Boe, who has recently recorded the official Olympic song. The furlong markers will also be adorned with large metre markers, while racecards will carry both race distances and jockey weights in imperial and metric units.
Rod Street, Chief Executive of Racing for Change, comments on the trial, “Racing’s unique language is an asset and part of its heritage and appeal, but we do think that the use of both metric and imperial measures will help us to explain the sport better to our international visitors and younger adults."
“Imperial measures don’t mean a great deal to kids and tourists, so it makes sense to trial the use of metric information. This summer, our London racecourses are expecting a significant number of overseas visitors, as well as British families taking advantage of free entry for U16s at most racedays.”
If these dual displays prove popular with racegoers, then their wider introduction will be considered in the autumn.
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