JUST WILLIAM: In Defence of the Racing League…

Good afternoon (or evening) to all who are reading this, and hopefully staying cool!

In Monday’s Oddities column, David Stewart offered a very robust takedown of the Racing League, which is set to start soon. It can be found below.


Regular readers will know that I am very much in favour of the league, although I understand some points of confusion.

The first point of contention is that racing is not ideal for a team format. David is right in saying that the sport circles around the four battles below:

Horse v Horse
Punter v Bookmaker
Jockey v Jockey
Trainer v Trainer

However, the Racing League format accommodates for this. The prize money – £50,000 per race, something which rarely seems to be acknowledged by it’s detractors – will provide natural motivation for each competitor, and punters ought to be well served by having valuable handicaps with high quality jockeys and trainers to choose from over six consecutive Thursday nights.

The factor of jockey v jockey will always play a part, especially with large amounts of prize money involved. The top three jockeys will share £50,000 – with £30,000 split across the three jockeys on the winning team.

The prize money element is also a huge carrot for trainers, who have many chances to take their share with no race worth less than £50,000 whilst the winning trainers get £60,000 between then along with £30,000 for their stable staff in a nice touch.

All of the points made above have been about prize money. That is not the only benefit of the Racing League in my view, but considering the amount of struggles British racing has had with prizemoney, it’s welcome to see valuable races and a prize fund that is fairly spread around at least.

Many have expressed confusion over the team format, but The Shergar Cup and international jockeys challenges have thrived over the years, and it shouldn’t be too hard to follow who’s winning from week to week.

A key part of the Racing League’s success is also going to be about the individual experiences for those who do attend. In Newcastle, Doncaster, Lingfield and Windsor we have four courses which are well attended and broadly well liked, and if new racegoers are brought into the sport – and the target audience appears to be younger.

The criticism that the league is elitist is one that should be taken seriously for the benefit of all involved – although the organisers say that every yard was invited to register an interest, for all that it’s much easier for some trainers to find horses good enough to compete than others, but it’s hardly a closed shop and 0-90 is a fair entry requirement.

Whilst the jury is out for many, for me there’s plenty to like about the Racing League – here’s hoping it’s a success.

The Hundred

On that note, The Hundred launched yesterday to many questions, much fanfare, and a very promising initial audience with the Times’ Elizabeth Ammon reporting that nearly 2 million viewers watched the Oval Invincible just get the better of the Manchester Originals in a thrilling game:

That figure is a very encouraging one for a women’s game – here’s to coverage of women’s sports growing – and whilst much was debated about the coverage, format and the tournament’s impact on the cricket schedule, the quality on show was top notch, and if the rest of The Hundred is as good as last night’s opener, then the tournament will do just fine.

On a separate note though…. Change the graphics. Anything to change the bloody graphics. How about this?

Ping Of The Hill

There’s a small chance that if you’re reading this, you or someone you know will have been asked to self-isolate by the NHS app. After all, A record 618,903 alerts were sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales in the week to July 14, a number which will have only grown given the rise in cases.

This surge in alerts has put some industries under pressure, leading to the coining of a term that I won’t use here (honestly you know what it is – be more imaginative) and for some reason it’s also led to a number of people blaming the NHS app for being… too sensitive.

It’s almost as if a huge rise in cases will mean that a lot more people are told to self-isolate by the app that’s designed to do just that? How strange….

Pass Masters

I know that this is the second straight week in which I’ve written about vaccine passports, a subject which I’m sure strikes joy into your heart.

Boris Johnson’s plan to ask nightclubs – and other crowded spaces, a banner which I’m pretty sure will include most sports and all musical concerts – to ask for proof of double vaccination to enter from the end of September has been met with predictable uproar from those opposed, especially back bench Conservative MP’s.

Even Labour had their own opposition, with s spokesperson for the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, saying: “We oppose the use of Covid vaccination status for everyday access to venues and services. It’s costly, open to fraud and is impractical.

“Being double-jabbed doesn’t prove you aren’t carrying the virus. Testing for access to venues would be more efficient, and would give people and businesses more certainty.”

Whilst regular testing is absolutely one of the most effective ways to make events as safe as possible – that sort of risk mitigation is as good as we’re going to get, given that cases will keep on rising – vaccine passports could be an unavoidable part of this year.

Vaccine take-up has been very strong throughout the pandemic, but does appeal to have levelled off with younger groups, who have had less time to get a dose – and are being hit with either cases or self-isolation – with 65% of 18-25 year olds and 69% of 25-29 year olds having had one dose at least.

Pushing that number as high as possible – especially with young people set to mix more and more at big events – is absolutely vital, especially before the university term starts up and the weather gets colder.

The willingness of all adults to get vaccinated – and it’s interesting to note that 10.4 million users have the NHS app, and 6m have downloaded it since vaccine passports went live in May – should provide comfort that plenty will get the jab through the summer, hopefully getting protection before the autumn.

However, anything less than 85% coverage by the end of September – interestingly the level at which a government source suggested might see the passport plan scrapped – would be a major worry for ministers. Perhaps the plan to implement them might be a sneaky nudge for younger people to get their doses? After all, if it’s good enough for the French….

Goodbye Dino!

When browsing Twitter this morning, eagerly awaiting the next part of Terry Ramsden’s #BettingPeople episode, I saw news that Dino Sofos, podcast producer extraordinaire, was leaving the BBC.

Sofos will be best known in media circles for his creation of ‘Electioncast’, which became ‘Brexitcast’, and then ‘Newscast’ – for all that he made a great contribution to lots of projects at the BBC – but he’s owed a special thanks by yours truly for the immense class and patience which he showed with many, many requests over five years as a very happy podcast listener.

Dino was kind enough to sort tickets for me to go to Brexitcast on three occasions – including a visit to the One Show, where I got to be on TV – and always had time for what felt like even the smallest of requests, along with an immaculate habit of replying almost instantly.

He will be an immense loss to the BBC and an asset to where he goes next, although if the producers and editors around him are anything to go by, the podcast division looks set to stay in good hands there.

Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.