Britain's postponed Racing League to launch in 2021

London (AFP) –

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Britain's postponed Racing League will launch in 2021, organisers said on Thursday, with a prize pot of nearly £2 million giving the beleaguered sport a "small light of hope".

The coronavirus forced the new competition to cancel plans for its debut this year but the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) has now approved race dates.

The Racing League, in which 12 teams will go head-to-head in a series of 36 races over six weeks, is aimed at attracting new fans to the sport.

Teams will consist of up to four trainers, 30 horses and three jockeys. All team members, including jockeys, will be dressed in team colours.

"Now after the deluge of bad news over the last six months there is a good news story to be had," said founder Jeremy Wray.

"It will go ahead next year and I can confirm the £1.8 million ($2.3 million) in prize money still stands.

"It is going to seem a huge number for people, owners, really everybody in racing by the time the sport emerges into next year.

"It is not a universal panacea but it is at least a small light of hope."

Racing is struggling badly due to the coronavirus pandemic. The BHA has warned that racecourses face a loss of £250 million-£300 million this year, with spectators barred from attending.

Ralph Beckett, who takes over as chairman of the National Trainers Federation in January, fears as many as 50 of the 500 licensed trainers in Britain may quit.

Wray, though, hopes the cash injection from the Racing League, which will start in Newcastle on July 29, 2021, will help.

"From a horseman's point of view there will be 360 horses taken from the middle tier of racing, which is being hard hit," he said.

"They are going to earn on average £5,000 per horse, which is not going to meet all the bills or cover shortfall.

"However, maybe that means a few more owners can stay in the game a little longer, a few more go off to the sales and a few more trainers feel less pressure."

Wray is keen to attract new fans to the sport.

"We want to keep the existing audience while attracting a new potential one," he said.

"We are very excited that we can bring people who perhaps know nothing about it but through Racing League will learn, follow it and enjoy it."