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Franchise-based horse racing competition mooted for UK

Plans have been revealed to launch a new horse racing competition in the UK next year, based on a similar model as the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament.

‘Championship Horse Racing’ will feature eight fixtures of six races on Thursday evenings during consecutive weeks from July through to September, according to initial plans revealed to the Racing Post newspaper.

As many as 12 branded teams could take part in the inaugural competition, with each franchise having a squad of 30 horses and four riders. Teams will be able to enter one horse into each race at a single meeting.

Plans also include details of an investment of more than £10m (€11.3m/$13.8m) in British racing, as well as a proposal to feature six £100,000-plus handicaps during each meeting of the series.

Jeremy Wray, the former chairman of English League Two football club Swindon Town, is heading up the new initiative and said the series could “turbo-boost audience, prize-money and participation growth rates”.

“The anonymity of racing has always driven me mad,” Wray, whose brother Ed was a co-founder of online gambling company Betfair, said. “I’m confident that by going out there and setting up a competition which is team based and has an exclusivity to it, you’re going to get a very exciting mix of brands.

“I’m not going to claim to know where they’re all going to come from, but I'd like to think there will be a couple of brands you or I haven’t heard of because this is an opportunity for countries who are looking to break into the UK.”

Wray said that although plans are at a “very early stage”, initial discussions with the sport’s main stakeholders in the UK have gone well.

Both the Jockey Club and Racecourse Media Group have an agreement in principle regarding ownership structure and partnership terms in the new series, with plans to work with Championship Horse Racing to develop the initiative. Wray also said that UK commercial broadcaster ITV has committed to televising the series.

“Nothing is contractually signed yet but racing has been unbelievably supportive. What’s been really encouraging is that everyone is trying to help build this thing,” Wray said.

“It’s at a very early stage but the important things is getting the concept out there and for people to understand and see it’s hopefully a win-win for everybody, as it’s an opportunity for new funding to come into the sport. It’s going to be exciting but the hard work starts here.”