The much anticipated Racing League has finally been given the go ahead with a full fixture list published this week.
The new competition, which will feature a team-based format and nearly £2 million prize money, will get underway on July 29, 2021 at Newcastle with further fixtures to follow at Doncaster (August 5), Lingfield (August 12 & 26) and Windsor (August 19) before returning to Newcastle on September 2.
The fixture list has been officially confirmed by the BHA, and Racing League founder Jeremy Wray – the former owner of Swindon Town FC – has stressed to all involved that the prize money will remain in place whether paying spectators are allowed at the track or not.
Wray said that after two false starts it was a relief to finally have an official start date in place, and with the eye-popping prize money on offer the concept seems sure to attract some of the finest horses, jockeys and training talent in the land. “It’s a rare good news story against a bleak background,” he told the BBC.
The founder has faced criticism throughout the planning stage of the Racing League, with many claiming that the team-based format simply won’t work. The head of Qipco, Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, has labelled the concept a ‘ridiculous idea.’
But Wray, who holds shares in 40 horses and is a huge supporter of the sport, is unmoved.
“Hopefully we can attract some sponsors not already involved in the sport. Innovation always meets scepticism – I find that a little bit extraordinary,” he said.
“This is a small beacon of light for a sport that is looking for funding from new sources.”
And Brian Meehan, a two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf and Champion Stakes winning trainer can’t wait to get on board.
“The prize-money alone is great news for owners, and I’m looking forward to competing in the Racing League and hopefully being part of the winning team.”
How Will The Racing League Work?
The idea behind the Racing League is that 12 teams will compete against one another for points in a standard league table format.
Each would be made up of 2-4 trainers, depending on the scale of the their operation, and they will pool their resources with a stable of 30 horses and three retained jockeys, who will race in designated team colours with their names on the back of their shirts. There will be a transfer window halfway through the league so that each team can enter/withdraw horses from their yards.
The six fixtures will each host half-a-dozen handicap races contested over 5f to 1m 4f, with each team nominating two horses for each – they will be rated 0-90. Points will be awarded per finishing position, and an overall league table will be published before a winner is confirmed at the end of the fixture list.
As things stand, Sky Sports have signed up to broadcast all six of the meetings, and a series of ‘trials’ which could change wider racing are set to be applied.
This includes changes to the use of the whip, which in the Racing League will mean that jockeys can only use the whip for ‘safety and correction purposes’, rather than for ‘encouragement’.