Racing League Winning Over (Some) Sceptics

Published 2023/09/25

Racing League Winning Over (Some) Sceptics

When it was introduced in 2021, the Racing League split opinion among horse racing fans. Traditionalists tended to think it was a bit of a gimmick that detracted from the history and heritage of the sport. Others felt it was an interesting new concept that added something different to the sport.

Three years on from its debut, the general feeling in the game is that it’s been a positive for horse racing.

Racegoer Buy In

Perhaps the biggest success story for the Racing League is that racegoers have bought into it. Horse racing is the second most popular spectator sport in the country; a statistic you might struggle to believe on a wet day at Lingfield.

Racing League fixtures though, were well-attended, vibrant and had a sense of fun. Plenty of fans were sporting their team colours, food and drink stalls were doing a fine trade and many were keen to get involved with horse racing betting as part of the experience.

A Close Finish For 2023

This summer’s Racing League went right down to the wire, with the last race at Southwell proving decisive. Starting the evening in second place, Ireland won three races in the night to snatch the title from Wales and the West by just seven points.

This was a turnaround for the team in green who finished bottom of the table last season. In the end, Ireland amassed 816 points to Wales and the West’s 809. London and the South finished with 706 points.

Competitive Racing

The Racing League is a concept that was designed to reinvigorate British racing. The idea of creating regional teams and a competition that doesn’t require people to follow all the complexities of the sport is similar to The Hundred in cricket.

Both sports have benefitted from this approach and boasted crowds they wouldn’t otherwise expected to have seen at evening fixtures over the summer. This is made possible by financial investment.

The 2023 Racing League featured 42 races across 6 venues and total prize money of £2 million. At a time when UK horse racing is struggling to compete with other countries in terms of the prize money on offer, this level of investment has piqued the interest of trainers. With trainers looking to target the lucrative purses on offer, the Racing League attracted competitive fields that deliver the types of close finishes racegoers want to see.

The Dettori Factor

When Frankie Dettori announced that his final season as a professional jockey would include competing in the Racing League, his presence was always going to be a major draw. His famous ‘magnificent seven’ in 1996 made Dettori a household name and put him up there with the likes of Lester Piggott in terms of public profile.

Participating in the league as part of his farewell season added another level of expectation for fans and added to the sense of occasion. Through a variety of factors, the Racing League has been successful in overcoming at least some of its sceptics. It will never win them all over, but it appears that it’s here to stay.