A refreshing – if slightly overwhelming – offering as Racing League returns | Horse Racing News

John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)

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Matt Champman full of enthusiasm after Zabbie and Sean Levey strike at the Racing League

John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)

By Catherine Macrae

Evening racing is not known for being a particularly lucrative affair. With fixtures often lacking quality and increasingly lacking quantity through shrinking field sizes, there is often little to appeal to racing newcomers or retain the interest of those well versed in the sport.

With the Racing League, broadcasters are attempting to inject life into these often overlooked meetings with a splash of colour, noise and enthusiasm and the result was a well-intended if slightly chaotic opening meeting at Doncaster on Thursday.

ITV has taken up the baton alongside last year’s coverage by Sky Sports, and has thrown itself into the new team contest with a decidedly upbeat tone.

It is a rather startling departure from the usual evening fare, and not an entirely unwelcome one. It was encouraging to watch trainers, jockeys and owners embrace the friendly team rivalries and the jovial atmosphere contrasted with the often muted tone of typical evening meetings.

John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)

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The jockeys line up for the Racing League at Doncaster

The jockeys line up for the Racing League at Doncaster

John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)

With Matt Chapman in command at ITV, supported by an energized cast that included Luke Harvey, Natalie Green and Jason Weaver, the priority was entertainment. Team members were filtered in and out of shot to exchange quips and light-hearted insults towards their opponents and everyone involved tried their best to embrace Chapman’s animated drive towards team success.

The presenters’ passion for the new format compelled viewers to go all in or be left behind. New graphics in the form of a running points tally set on the edge of the screen during races, an addition that would have been helpful to those on course, who often struggled to know where they stood in the competition.

For viewers, there was a lot to adjust to – not least the sight of so many clad in Racing League outfits – and Jamie Osborne’s choice to play a joker card in the opening contest was bound to have thrown many (double points for the uninitiated) .

The League has not ironed out all its flaws. The races themselves were rather muddling affairs, featuring a sea of ​​team colors and leaving commentator Mark Johnson with a formidable challenge to tell runners apart.

It all amounted to a slightly overwhelming, albeit refreshing, break from the regular evening offerings. If it is able to navigate the tricky line between tradition and innovation, maybe the Racing League can go the distance.

Read this next. . .

‘They’re getting there’ – plus points for Racing League but still no big names (Members’ Club)

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