Racing League: Ultra-competitive handicaps, team spirit and top prize-money gives new competition a winning start

The new team-based competition, the Racing League, began at Newcastle on Thursday, with six different teams enjoying victory on the night; 12 teams, wearing bespoke colours, are made up of two to four trainers and a trio of jockeys

The 2021 Racing League is under way and, after much anticipation, has already lived up to the promise of being highly competitive and entertaining.

The new-team based competition kicked off at Newcastle on Thursday, with six of the 12 teams enjoying winners on the night and team Newmarket Red coming out on top of the table as we head to Doncaster next week, live on Sky Sports Racing.

Here is a look at what we learned from week one of the Racing League...

Racing League live on Sky Sports: How to follow

Racing League live on Sky Sports: How to follow

Watch every race of the Racing League live on Sky Sports from Thursday, July 29

Every point matters

With just three non-runners on the card, four of the six races included the maximum field of 12 as each team battled it out for as many points as possible.

Sky Sports Racing's on-screen race tracker highlighted the dramatic chopping and changing as the jockeys jostled for room.

Racing League standings after week one at Newcastle
Image: Racing League standings after week one at Newcastle

We were treated to plenty of exciting finishes, with Hayley Turner proving a crowd favourite after a beautifully-timed ride on team ThoroughBid's Roscioli in race five.

Our early leaders Newmarket Red proved that consistency will be key as they topped the table despite not registering a winner. Three second-placed horses and two thirds enough to register 85 points from a possible 150 and send them clear of team talkSPORT by seven.

Paul Mulrennan rides Saluti to victory for Team Arena in the first race of the Racing League
Image: Paul Mulrennan rides Saluti to victory for Team Arena in the first race of the Racing League

Teamwork is dream work

After riding Saluti to victory in the opening race for Team Arena, jockey Paul Mulrennan described a "real good buzz" in the weighing room.

Aside from the few jockeys with experience of riding in the annual Shergar Cup at Ascot, this was a first taste of working together and they seem to be relishing the experience.

It might take a little more getting used to for the league's trainers as they pick and choose which of their horses to run.

Pearl Beach wins for Racehorse Lotto and Danny Muscutt
Image: Racehorse Lotto's Newcastle winner Pearl Beach was declared after William Knight won a coin-toss with fellow trainer George Boughey

Any disputes so far have been settled very amicably, with Racehorse Lotto's George Boughey and William Knight meeting for a civilised coin-toss to decide between their intended runners.

Knight won and, fortunately for the team in pink, his case was justified as Danny Muscutt rode Pearl Beach to victory in the last.

Competition is key

Every sport worth its salt has to have competitive action at its core and thankfully, if week one is anything to go by, the Racing League is full of it.

Many of the Racing League's owners and trainers have long since targeted their chosen runners at the competition's highly valuable handicaps (£50,000 per race), meaning there was a high quality of horses on show.

Racing League jockey standings after week one
Image: Racing League jockey standings after week one

The nature of the chosen races, all 0-90 handicaps over distances between five furlongs and a mile-and-a-half, meant the number of hot-shot favourites and no-hopers were limited.

After finishing bottom of the pile in races two and three, team ThoroughBid shot up the table with victory in the penultimate race, one of many dramatic shifts on the night.

The scoring system may look like Formula One's but, make no mistake, there is going to be a lot more than just two or three teams battling it out at the top come the final day back at Newcastle on September 2.

The big names keep coming

Frankie Dettori
Image: Frankie Dettori will represent week one leaders Newmarket Red in the coming weeks

A simple, but very welcome, addition to the rather tight-fitting bespoke silks is Racing League's decision to include each jockey's surname on the back.

One of the league's main aims is to attract a new audience to the sport and thus familiarising spectators on-track, and those watching at home, with the stars they are cheering on is vital.

Rising stars such as Marco Ghiani and Laura Pearson were on show, with the latter giving Goat Racing's Echo Beach a fine ride to win race three.

With raceday one clashing with Glorious Goodwood, some of the biggest names in the sport are yet to make their Racing League debut.

But fear not, they are coming. Leaders Newmarket Red will be bolstered by the legendary Frankie Dettori, while team talkSPORT are yet to unleash the in-form Hollie Doyle and Cieren Fallon.

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