Racing will start early on Sunday if England reach World Cup final

Officials at Southwell and Stratford are looking forward to a potentially historic afternoon for English sport on Sunday after agreeing to start racing early should the England football team reach the World Cup final.

Much of of the nation has been gripped by World Cup fever after the national side beat Sweden on Saturday to reach its first semi-final in 28 years.

England will play Croatia in Moscow on Wednesday evening for the right to meet either Belgium or France in Sunday's final. England have reached the World Cup final just once before - when winning it in 1966.

With the final scheduled to kick-off at 4pm in Britain, race times at both English racecourses have been provisionally moved back to avoid a clash.

Racing at Southwell is currently set to get under way at 2.20pm and end at 5.35pm, but that will change should England get through Wednesday's semi-final, with the first race pencilled in for 12.15pm and the last for 3.25pm.

Southwell's clerk of the course, Roderick Duncan, said: "I think it was a fairly straightforward decision.

"Obviously we hope England get through and if they do, moving the races back will allow everyone to watch them in the World Cup final.

"I'm sure it would be a great occasion."

Racing at Stratford would also be moved back almost two hours, with racing starting at 12.30pm and finishing at 3.35pm.

Racecourse manager Ilona Barnett said: "We've had thousands of emails and calls about it and we felt it suited everybody.

"If England don't get to the final, we'll go back to the original race times."

Race times at Perth are set to remain as previously scheduled. The first race in Scotland is due off at 2.10pm, with the last race run at 5.30pm.

It is the first afternoon of the five-day July Festival at Killarney, where the first race is at 1.50pm and last race 5.10pm.

Racing in Ireland also takes place at Sligo (first race 2.05pm and last race 5.20pm).

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