British horse racing is about to get a modern makeover, thanks to a new concept dreamed up by Championship Horse Racing (CRH) that borrows elements from Formula One racing.
Horse racing goes back thousands of years, while many of the regulations, as we know them today, were thrashed out by British noblemen in the 17th and 18th centuries. So maybe it’s high time for a revamp.
The UK’s most famous race, the Epsom Derby, from which all other derbies take their name, has been in running since 1779 – a welcome distraction, perhaps, from the latest pesky colonial war raging on the other side of the Atlantic.
CRH wants to drag “the Sport of Kings” whinnying and snorting into the 21st century, with a new competition called “The Series,” which aims to ramp up viewer engagement, inject the sport with new sponsorship dollars, and, according to the company’s website, distance it from gambling.
Launching in 2019, The Series will comprise 12 teams composed of one trainer, four jockeys and 30 horses, competing against each other throughout a season of 48 races.
Like Formula One, the teams will be owned by international brands and a points-based scoring system will decide the winner at the end of the season. Each individual race will have minimum prize money of least £100,000 ($138,000).
“This is a fantastic chance for racing to lead the way in changing how people watch sport, both live and in terms of bite-size, interactive content,” said Jeremy Wray, CEO of CHR.
CHR’s desire to “move horse racing away from gambling” is about finding new revenue streams for the sport and diminishing its reliance on funding from the gambling industry.
Funding Crisis Looms
The Association of British Bookmaking (ABB) has warned that the UK government’s plan to reduce the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 will decimate the retail betting industry and would hit funding for racing hard.
The ABB has said thousands of bookmaking shops across the country will close as a result of the measure because they rely on the controversial betting terminals for a large part of their revenue.
But horse racing relies on the bookmaking shops for a large part of their revenues too. Each shop pays the horse racing industry £30,000 for media rights and their closures could equate to a hit in the tens of millions for the industry.