Ireland may never get to host a Formula One race or win a Formula One World Championship but a sport in which we do excel has announced steps to replicate the global competitive nature of that sport and who knows…
The Jockey Club in England is backing an ambitious new event in horseracing which will see twelve ‘teams’ each backed by a major brand, take charge of 30 horse and four jockeys to compete against each other in a twelve week series of televised Thursday night race meetings at the UK’s most iconic flat racing venues.
‘The Series’ has been devised by Championship Horse Racing, an organisation headed by Jeremy Wray. Wray was instrumental in bringiung Betfair to life through the connection made between co-founders Andrew Black who was his best friend at the time and Edward, his brother.
There is little doubting the impact Betfair had on racing and now it could be that the Wray family will do so again.
The Jockey Club is backing the idea and has helped in its development. Each of the races will be run as a Handicap meaning it will be competitive as opposed to looking to attract the very best of horse away from alternative targets. Each will also be worth £100,000 (€112,000) making them attractive in their own right.
“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,” said Jockey Club CEO Simon Bazalgette.
“Jeremy and his team are bringing a really far-thinking approach to the offer they’re taking to market for brands to get involved.
“I hope that will result in a fantastic new competition launching next year that can excite existing and new fans alike and welcome some great new partners for our sport.”
Existing brands with an involvement in the sport from Emirates to Quipco, Longines to Investec and Roles, as well as Irish linked brands Ryanair and Guinness are being talked off as potential brands to back teams in much the same way as Red Bull in motor racing or Sky in cycling but none have yet been signed up.
The imagination behind the idea has captured a global audience with it being covered on CNN, Reuters and across the world overnight.
There are naysayers who claim it will not work because it is different and in a softer UK sponsorship market that it is not the right time crossing over Brexit.
Sometimes though the best of ideas come at the strangest of times and from out of left field.
Horse racing outside of Ireland has sometimes relied too much on the high moments of a Derby or Grand National to elevate it from the committed to the wider market.
This could be an opportunity to change that. It could also be a boost for Ireland’s trade balance if Irish trainers and horse are involved in a series that will have over €5 million in prize money.
The Series is being talked of as starting in 2019.