All you need to know about the Racing League - starting at Newcastle tonight
On the eve of launch, chief executive officer Jeremy Wray on Wednesday hailed the William Hill Racing League as "something better and different" and a boost for owners.
He acknowledged early teething problems but defended the series against claims of "exclusivity".
The Racing League, in which 12 teams take each other on with one horse a race across a series of six Thursday night meetings televised by Sky, gets under way at Newcastle.
Wray, who has "had legs in a few horses", said: "Owners are the people who suffer most through the lack of prize-money – this idea was a way of making their assets work for them a bit better.
"There's a huge gap between the top end of racing – Goodwood, Ascot, York and Cheltenham are all fantastic but if you've got the racing on in the background every day you think some of it is very mediocre.
"It serves a purpose but there's a lot of space in the calendar for something better and different."
Only 42 trainers are taking part in the Racing League but Wray said: "We went out of our way via the NTF [National Trainers' Federation] to contact everybody. We did roadshows, I went to the sales, we held meetings in various places.
"When we sent the letter out to everybody, the first two inquiries came in from Tim Easterby and Sir Mark Prescott. That's the type of enthusiasm you want. Dare I say, that's probably why some of these trainers are very successful, because they are aware of all the opportunities.
"When I tried to speak to some other trainers I had to be quite thick-skinned, they were very abrupt – 'Stupid idea, don't understand it, speak to my secretary, it's not for me'."
Several extra jockeys had to be drafted in to make up the numbers on Thursday's card but Wray said: "We were already aware that we probably needed to go to four jockeys a team but when we were in discussions with the PJA [Professional Jockeys Association] we wanted to make sure each jockey got a fair crack of the whip – you could have ten a team but some wouldn't get a chance to ride many.
"For any new idea there's proof of concept in year one. T20 has grown from year one, they got things wrong, they changed things and it gradually morphed into what it is now. We'll do the same, we'll learn a lot.
"We've got great support from our partners at Arc and Sky, they're in it for the long haul. The proof of this will be if it grows from the start and by the end people are interested in what happens. I'm encouraged by all the enthusiasm that the teams are showing – let's see."
William Hill Racing League – how it works
12 teams take part. Each consists of:
Trainers – a minimum of two and a maximum of four
Jockeys – who ride exclusively for one team during the competition
A squad of 30 horses – there will be a "squad reshuffle" in week four to provide fresh legs
Team manager – who decides team selection
Raceday 1 – Newcastle, July 29
Raceday 2 – Doncaster, August 5
Raceday 3 – Lingfield Park, August 12
Raceday 4 – Windsor, August 19
Raceday 5 – Lingfield, August 26
Raceday 6 – Newcastle, September 2
Handicaps open to three-year-olds and up, rated 0-90. A team has one runner in each race. Each meeting has races over 5f, 6f, 7f, 1m, 1m2f and 1m4f.
Winner – 25 points
Second – 18
Third – 15
Fourth – 12
Fifth – 10
Sixth – 8
Seventh – 6
Eighth – 3
Ninth – 2
Tenth – 1
Each race is worth £50,000, making £1.8 million in total over the series.
The Racing League champions will also receive a £150,000 team bonus, shared between trainers, staff, owners and jockeys.
The jockey who scores the most points over the series wins a £25,000 bonus, with £15,000 to the runner-up and £10,000 to the third.
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