AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

JUST WILLIAM: Festival Feeling

We’ve reached September! Yes, that’s right – if you’re reading this then you’ve made it to the first non-summer month, so give yourself a pat on the back (as I’m sure that you’ve made better choices than I have this year).

September brings many things with it, including earlier nights, the return of the Champions League, early talk of Christmas – admit it, you’ve seen the crackers in the shops – and of course, inevitable talk about the new jumps season.

I speak of the jumps, because in recent weeks there’s been talk about a new winter jumps festival in the UK to match the Dublin Racing Festival, apparently something that a National Hunt steering group are looking at.

First things first – it’s vanishingly unlikely that a new DRF equivalent would suddenly make English horses more competitive at the Cheltenham Festival. There are many reasons for the Irish domination, several which are really well documented by Venetia Williams in the letter below – and the sort of structural foundations behind elite sporting success, especially in racing, will probably need several seasons to change.

However, that doesn’t make the idea of a new festival any less interesting. There would be many challenges to creating a new festival – I think that using two different courses, as the Irish Champions Weekend does for its flat festival, would be good from a racegoing perspective, although it’s a logistical challenge – but giving the UK jumps season a new centrepiece could bring much benefit.

ITV’s Ed Chamberlin came up with a creative proposal for a new Christmas super festival which deserves serious respect in my opinion (linked below) and whilst creating a new meeting would leave some winners and losers, new concepts in racing have been created before with some success – and maybe this is one that’s worth thinking about.

Racing League Reflections

The much discussed (I’m sure many will reply ‘maligned’) Racing League ends tonight with the finale at Newcastle. I think it’s fair to say that the first edition has had plenty of difficulties, although I for one do think that the influx of prizemoney from Championship Racing was more than welcome in a sport where prizemoney has long been a big issue.

Presuming that the next edition of the league goes ahead, I think some changes might be in order to improve things:

– Regional teams: It’s fair to say that people haven’t connected with the franchise leagues this season and for the team format to be a consistent success, a change to regions could provide people – even if they’re not necessarily new racing fans – to have more interest in on track events

– Terrestrial coverage: Sky Sports Racing have done a fine job of coverage, but a key difference between the Racing League and the Sunday Series has been ITV coverage. It would be a huge fillip for the League to have the same level of involvement

– More courses? No disrespect to the current courses – Doncaster put on a fine old show – but next year it may be an idea to have six different meetings at six different courses. The geographical spread this year was good, but maybe a Scottish meeting could be a help?

– A time change? Could different days or a different slot work for the League? Clashes with the Ebor and Glorious Goodwood took much of the shine off two fixtures.

And last but never least, the last word of this week’s column goes to a completely different sport. The legendary Dale Steyn called it a day this week – here’s some of his best work below.


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