It’s going to be challenging for the Racing League
Mike Deasy on the challenges facing the Racing League, it’s advantage the Sky Bet/ITV Sunday Racing Series, Sandown’s catering confusion, and why is the Racing Class so modest if it’s so good?
Those who bridle at racing’s once a year team fixture, the Shergar Cup at Ascot, are unlikely to take to a new initiative, the Racing League.
A dozen teams will participate, and the League will consist of 36 handicaps, each worth £50k in prize-money, taking place over six consecutive weeks from the end of July to early September on Thursday evenings, at Doncaster, Lingfield, Newcastle and Windsor.
Each team will comprise:
- Trainers – minimum of two and a maximum of four
- Three jockeys – who will ride exclusively for one team during the competition
- A squad of 30 horses – ‘squad reshuffle’ in the fourth week for fresh legs
- Team Manager – who will decide team selection for each race
The line-up of trainers and jockeys is impressive.
Details were given in the past week of a major media deal between the Racing League and News UK, whose brands include TalkSPORT, The Sun and The Times, all of whom are set to give the League special coverage. The fixtures will be shown on Sky Sports Racing.
However, on the same day and overshadowing the Racing League announcement, was news that ITV will show three new Sunday twilight meetings forming the Sky Bet Sunday Series and comprising seven races, all of which will be shown by the free-to-air broadcaster. The races will be run at Haydock, Musselburgh and Sandown.
The challenge for the Racing League is that they’ve cosied up with News UK and that sort of thing doesn’t go down too well with media rivals.
Whilst Friday’s Racing Post and most of Saturday’s racing sections reported the new Sunday racing package on ITV, those same outlets have mostly shunned the Racing League. Indeed, it has yet to be mentioned by the Times or Sunday Times online editions.
Part of the Racing League announcement was that four of the eight teams now have sponsors, and this was covered in the Post, but their item made no mention of the media tie-up.
The team sponsors are TalkSPORT, who will provide commentaries on the races; ODDSbible, who call themselves “the largest betting community in the world” but whose website doesn’t seem to be overflowing with racing content; social investment platform eToro; and the Goat Agency, a social media marketing agency.
It’s risky being dismissive of unfamiliar online enterprises as they can grow in leaps and bounds but the line-up is a little underwhelming in terms of household names.
Both initiatives have the potential to benefit racing but the Sky Bet Sunday Series is likely to deliver the most.
With coverage on ITV4 of all seven races on each of the three cards, it will be shown when there is the optimum audience available to watch, can more readily pick up casual viewers than a dedicated racing channel, receive cross promotion from other ITV Racing programming, and has the involvement of one of the larger online betting operators.
One aspect which might feel the squeeze is coverage in the Sunday papers with their ambivalence towards racing.
Perhaps the biggest negative concerning the Sunday Series is that its three fixtures are new to the calendar amid widely held views that there’s already too much racing.
The Racing League still seems to be work in progress, even though the launch is due at the end of July and if it has plans for a betting partner it’s not yet clear who that might be.
Of the two initiatives, my money is on the Sunday Series being the more successful and if it is it could be back next year.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It was unbelievable to have my family there. I had a tear in my eye, a lump in my throat, it was magical, the best day ever. To see my little lad’s face coming into the winner’s enclosure, I couldn’t be any happier.” Jockey Robert Tart on his comeback race, which he won, after taking a four-year break from race-riding due to anxiety and depression
Table 54 where are you?
Some racecourses have already welcomed back limited crowd numbers whilst others are yet to operate the turnstiles.
Sandown is one of the tracks which has seen racegoers on two occasions and put into place the necessary protocols to protect its customers from Covid. One such measure has been at-seat service of food and drink.
Once you have mastered the app, or not as the case sometimes seemed to be, drinks were brought to you from the bar. Trouble was that the squad of serving staff had difficulty in finding the tables, not least because the numbering wasn’t prominent.
This resulted in customers recognising their order disappearing in the wrong direction, leading to frantic waving and shouting. Which, unsurprisingly, got wilder and louder as the evening went on.
For the track’s second outing, instead of providing waiting staff with a layout showing table numbers, they changed the table numbers from the previous week. More waving and shouting ensued.
Newbury will see spectators for the first time on 10 June and there will be something different for racegoers even if it’s not immediately apparent. The course has stopped running its own in-house catering operation and, from 1 June, is outsourcing food and drink to Levy, part of the Compass Group, who already have a joint-venture with Jockey Club Racecourses.
Yes, but who are you?
“Become an expert in racing” says the new Racing Class website homepage, offering tutorials on how to be successful in racing and breeding.
“Based in South Northamptonshire, serving the UK with over forty years’ experience in the sport, having owned, bred and ridden racehorses my meetings are designed to provide you with all the information you need to become an avid fan of the sport, with the knowledge to make informed decisions on races.”
There are two modules, on racing and breeding. Meetings consist of two 40-minute sessions and are available in the afternoons and evenings so students can easily fit them around other commitments. There are three terms every year with eight meetings in each term. The fee of £120 per term does not seem extortionate.
Mention is also made of The Racing Class having three horses in training.
The website boasts “Learn from the best”, but who that might be is not mentioned. There are no details of who’s behind The Racing Class – they’re clearly modest people.
♦Talking of websites, I mentioned a month ago an advertisement in a number of newspapers offering “brilliant free betting tips straight to your inbox”. If you read the ad in a newspaper’s online edition and clicked on the web address you were taken to a web page where you can “get our top tips for Aintree and the National!”
That’s still the case four weeks on. I wonder how business is.