Proposals for a summer series of team races to be run next year have been blasted as ridiculous by leading owner and sponsor Sheikh Fahad Al Thani.
On Thursday, eight courses in Britain and Ireland were revealed as the hosts for ‘The Series’, a competition featuring 12 teams in a F1-style event to be run on summer evenings in 2019.
Ayr, Epsom, Goodwood, Haydock, Leopardstown, Newbury, Newmarket and Sandown are the proposed venues for the 48-race competition, in which teams comprising 30 horses, four jockeys and a racing manager contest races worth £100,000 each.
However, the latest announcement was given short shrift by Sheikh Fahad, a prominent backer, along with his brothers, of British and Irish racing through Qatar Racing and Qipco.
He wrote on Twitter: “Surely before the BHA sanction a ridiculous idea like ‘the team competition’ they’d take the advice of owners and trainers in racing?”
His viewed were endorsed by John Dance, the owner of multiple Group 1-winner Laurens, whose firm Vertem Asset Management recently took over sponsorship of the final Group 1 of the British Flat season at Doncaster.
“For an owner it feels a bit like being a football club that buys players, pays their wages but then watches them play for another club,” he wrote on Twitter.
The proposed races, which will require sanctioning from the BHA as they fall outside the current fixture list, are slated to take place on Thursday evenings between July 25 and September 12.
Championship Horse Racing, the group behind The Series, announced plans in February for competition in which branded teams would compete over a set period. As yet, no sponsors or competitors have been revealed.
The driving force behind the project has been chief executive Jeremy Wray, former chairman of Swindon Town FC and brother of Betfair co-founder Ed Wray, who hopes the races will “turbo-boost audience, prize-money and participation growth rates”.
Championship Horse Racing: the proposed format
- The Series will comprise 12 teams each having a squad of 30 horses which may be in the care of a single trainer or multiple trainers
- They will compete in eight fixtures of six races each staged on Thursday evenings during consecutive weeks (July to September)
- Each of the 48 races will have 12 runners, one from each team
- Points will be awarded in a similar format to F1 with 25 points to the winner down to one point to tenth place
He said: “Agreeing the likely racecourse schedule is a key milestone [for us]. Over the next few months we will be announcing the teams and the media partners who will broadcast The Series across the world.
“We’re thrilled The Series is due to take place at such prestigious courses and that it will debut in three countries. They are great locations and have superb facilities for summer evening racing that promises fans something they’ve never experienced before.”
He added: “Fans will be encouraged to engage with the teams and our aim is to help tell the stories about the tens of thousands of people involved in the sport.”
Speaking in August, Wray said races would be run as hands and heels only with the whip only used for safety purposes. He also believed ITV4 coverage could be secured.
Simon Bazalgette, group chief executive of the Jockey Club and chairman of Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “We’re delighted to support The Series.
“There are some fantastic people behind the horses in our sport and it would be brilliant to shine a light on them through this new initiative, while attracting new partners to our sport.”
The BHA has yet to receive any formal approach from Championship Horse Racing, but has been in discussions with the group over The Series.
Robin Mounsey, the BHA’s head of media, said on Thursday: “We are in dialogue with the organisers of The Series and will consider any applications for extra fixtures on their merits once received, including consultation with participants and stakeholders.”
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