London (AFP) – Plans were announced Monday to launch a multi-million pound team horse racing series across some of Britain’s leading courses next year.
Promoters Championship Horse Racing (CHR) said the aim was to have 12 branded teams, each with a squad of 30 horses, compete over eight consecutive Thursdays in an early summer evening televised slot.
Each one of the meetings will feature six handicap flat races, with teams only allowed to enter one horse per race, thereby creating 12-runner fields.
Each team will have four dedicated jockeys, who will only ride for that one team during these races.
Horse-racing events have traditionally been a matter of an individual owner, trainer and rider joining forces to run a horse in a particular, stand-alone, race.
Team events are rare in racing, unlike other ‘solo’ sports such as golf and tennis where the Ryder Cup and Davis Cup tournaments respectively are both long-established competitions.
Organisers hope ‘The Series’, as it has been titled, will draw a new audience into the sometimes complex world of horse racing, with an easy to follow points system, similar to the one used in Formula One, determining the winners of both the team and jockeys’ championships.
There have long been concerns that declining levels of prize money are putting off owners from getting involved in what can be an expensive sport.
But CHR said all 48 races across the series would have prize money in excess of £100,000 ($138,000, 112,500 euros), with owners, trainers, jockeys and stable staff all benefitting.
“This is a fantastic chance for racing to lead the way in changing how people watch sport, both live and in terms of bite-size, interactive content,” said CHR chief executive Jeremy Wray.
“The viewers will become fans and engage with brands like never before, on a global scale. Furthermore, everyone in racing benefits, be they stable staff, owners or jockeys.”
The Jockey Club, once the governing body of British racing and still a key player as its courses stage several major races including the Grand National and The Derby, has helped CHR develop The Series.
Simon Bazalgette, the Jockey Club’s chief executive, said: “The Jockey Club is all about the long-term health of British racing, so The Series is something that makes complete sense for us to support.”
Meanwhile John Gosden, one of the leading flat trainers in England, said: “The Series is the most creative and positive racing sponsorship opportunity I have seen and I hope it will become a tremendous success.”