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RACING: RIDING TO RESCUE; saves Fair meeting at Hamilton.

Byline: JOE PUNTER

IT'S a Fair cop for your battling Sunday Mail, the paper that's always on the side of Scottish sport.

Last year we fought to save Hamilton's Fair Friday night meeting from the axe and won the first round of the battle by having it retained on the fixture list.

And it was all down to our loyal band of readers who signed our petition to safeguard the historic fixture in their thousands.

Final part of the jigsaw was persuading the bookies to fund it otherwise the Lanarkshire course would have been staring into a deep financial hole.

And the good news is the High Street layers have agreed to show racing from Hamilton on Fair Friday live in the shops and more importantly stump up for the privilege.

Delighted Morag Gray, the course's chief executive, said: 'Even when the British Horseracing Board agreed to save the fixture, thanks to your campaign, there was still doubt if it would be covered because the bookies' policy is only to cover two meetings per night.

'They had selected Pontefract and Newmarket even though ours is the best fixture and features the pounds 30,000 Tennent's Scottish Stewards Cup.

'However, to the bookies credit they have looked at the situation again and have just confirmed they will cover Hamilton as well as the other two.

'This is not just good sense and good for punters, it is good for us too because it means we will now get paid for it!!

'Even though the fixture was saved we were facing a pounds 50,000 hole in our finances.

'If a meeting isn't covered you don't receive money for the SIS pictures, you don't have any of the levy or any of the integrity costs like photo finish paid for. Our board thought we needed to save the fixture first, which we did thanks to the Sunday Mail's amazing support, then fight for our rightful coverage and funding.

'It has taken nearly a year to sort out but we are delighted and relieved that sense has finally won the day.

'And of course we are extremely grateful to the Mail for your wonderful backing.'

Our pleasure Morag! Even though punters will now be able to watch the Hamilton Fair Friday action in their local betting shop I'm sure they will flock in their thousands, as usual, to one of Scottish racing's highlights of the year on July 16.

MUSSELBURGH has another great meeting today complete with superstar Frankie Dettori riding in four races.

The boys and girls at Scottish Racing deserve a huge pat on the back for the manner in which they are handling the promotion of the sport north of the border.

In fact they, along with the Sunday Mail and our sister paper the Daily Record, have just been given one.

At the Scottish Sport Sponsorship awards Scottish Racing and ourselves beat off stiff competition to be given a top sponsorship accolade, the Conival Award.

AS I predicted, the top 20 UK racecourses have signed up to form the Horse Racing Channel, a digital service that will cost pounds 20 each month.

Or as sniffy Goodwood supremo Rod Fabricius pompously put it 'no more than a couple of bottles of reasonable wine'.

If they could bottle condescension he would be worth a mint.

Besides which, you can get six bottles of Lanarkshire Beaujolais aka Buckfast for your score.

Seriously, anyone subscribing already to the full Sky package and who also wants the new racing channel will have to shell out more than pounds 60 a month.

Don't see a big uptake among the bears, do you?

GOT a racing query? Write to Joe Punter, One Central Quay, Glasgow G 3 8DA or e-mail joepunter@sundaymail.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Cheers: Hamilton chief executive Morag Gray was bubbling all over yesterday after we saved the big night
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 11, 2004
Words:647
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