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The Racing League – what is this new team-based competition in horse racing?

Horse Racing as a sport is innately a solo event.
The closest we come to having teams in the competition areas of the sport on a regular basis are the partnerships formed between horse and jockey, which change every race, and between the jockey and trainer, which can alter frequently.

In 1999, we had our first taste of how horse racing can incorporate a team element into the game, as the now well-known Shergar Cup was invented, taking place at Goodwood in its first year before moving to Ascot Racecourse from the year 2000 onwards.

The annual event is now a massive hit amongst racing fans, though naturally, some are against the idea.
Fast-forward to 2022 and we now have the second year of a new concept on our TV screens: the Racing League. What is the Racing League? Well, here to add some light to the situation, I’m going to delve into the details of this fresh idea in horse racing with the hope that some of you will be intrigued.

Different to the Shergar Cup, the Racing League is a six-week-long event that takes place across five different racecourses – Lingfield Park, Windsor, Southwell, Doncaster, and Newcastle, with the latter hosting two race days.

This year, the Racing League has seven regional teams competing – London & The South, The East, The North, Wales & The West (the side Cheltenham-based trainers are a part of), Yorkshire, Scotland, and Ireland – rather than the team-sponsored names of last year which they quickly ditched, a good idea it would seem.

Each team is controlled by a team manager who selects which horses and jockeys should run in each specific race out of the ones available to them, akin to how a head coach would select their starting XI before a football match – this is done two days before the race.

Across the seven-race card each week, the teams will field two runners per race and are awarded points due to where they finish, with first place picking up 25 points, second place receiving 18 points, all the way down to 10th who collects one point and the rest behind walk away with nothing.

A new and interesting element to the showcase is the double-your-points JOKER; a play that each team manager can only use twice in the 42-race program. After week one, Wales & The West, managed by Jamie Osbourne, played their joker card in the first race on Galiac, who went on to finish second, bringing home 36 points in total for the team.

That is the rules roughly explained; now we move on to why the Racing League could turn into a big success.
Firstly, it fronts up and tackles some of the most prominent issues within our sport, mainly prize money and field sizes.

Overall, more than two million pounds in prize money is up for grabs, with an additional £50,000 heading the way of the winning squad as well as £20,000 to the jockey with the most competition points by the end of race 42.
Furthermore, we get to see some competitive, big-field handicaps on a Thursday evening. On the opening day, 90 horses went under starter’s orders at Doncaster compared to the 31 who made the trip to Yarmouth on the same day – all those horses are competing on a Thursday evening because the prize money is to a level that just can’t be ignored.

After race week one, Matt Chapman’s London & The South are at the head of proceedings thanks to a treble rode by Sean Levey – but it’s all still to play for with five more weeks left to go.

Tony Carroll, a multipurpose trainer situated just 17 miles from Cheltenham, is one of the many trainers who have horses running for the Wales & the West team.
This is his first dive into the competition, and he is interested to see how it pans out, as he said: “It’s all new to me but from the face of it, the prize money and competitiveness seem to be very good.
“I believe I will be going to Lingfield on Thursday [August 11th], something I’m excited about – I’m looking forward to having a go at the nice prize money as it’s all new to me.”

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