British Racing goes NASCAR, and that's not a bad thing

Courtesy of Becky Johnston

The Racing Post reported today that plans were underway by Racing UK in connection with their consultants, to implant a ten-race championship series call the Sovereign Series.  Beginning in 2010, the races which will culminate in a £2 million prize payoff to be split between the top three point finishers at the end of the year.  The prize money is in addition to purses of each race.  The organizers are looking for an overall sponsor, much like Sprint does for the NASCAR championship.

The races are all Group 1 affairs without any of the races being restricted to gender.  They will begin with the 2,000 Guineas and run through the Vodafone Derby, Prince of Wales’ Stakes, Juddmonte International will culminate with the running of the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes in October at Newmarket.  The races will be contested from one mile to twelve furlongs.  At the conclusion of the series, the points’ leader is crowned the British Flat Racing Champion.

All of the races would be contested on Saturdays to maximize television exposure and bring racing mainstream.

Now, I’m not blind to the fact that there are some problems with this, not the least of which is that there are some three-year-old restricted races in the mix and the distances vary by a half-mile, but I can’t help wondering if the Breeders’ Cup powers-that-be are listening?

Follow their lead? 

We had a series similar to this, years ago that connected races like the Donn Handicap, Santa Anita Handicap, Pimlico Special, and Hollywood Gold Cup.  Our racing should employ a series like this instead of the ludicrous “win and you’re in” which has no real effect on keeping stars in racing.  If you split a $5,000,000 prize to the three horses with the most points by year-end, that might entice some to stay in training rather than go to the breeding shed.

I can also appreciate the Dubai World Cup and it’s powerful place in racing, but I detest seeing our historic races like the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, Santa Anita Handicap and Oaklawn Park Handicap being pillaged because of it.  The only horse of the year to win the Big Cap since the World Cup started was Tiznow in 2001.

Will this series hurt our Breeders’ Cup turf races?

The last ten runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Turf have featured a European winner in six and a half of those renewals.  The half belongs to High Chaparral in 2003, who shared the win with Johar.

European shippers have certainly made their presence known in the Filly and Mare race and the Mile, but I don’t see those races effected as much as the 12-furlong contest.

The real point that we need to “get” is this series underscores what U.S. racing needs, something to strengthen the handicap races by enticing three-year-olds to stay in racing and bring the stars through the year and on to the Breeders’ Cup. 

Would it hurt to have a point system for the Eclipse Awards?  Or at least, a share of the voting, lessening it from a popularity contest and basing it on longevity.  This could give the handicap division more appeal to owners.

For our fan base, this could bring consistency to our game.  Promotions, such as fantasy racing stables, would provide more interest to the casual and hardcore fan alike.  Advertising dollars could be spent more wisely with a set path to our championships.  All racing would benefit from this, not just the tracks hosting the point races.

We certainly need something positive to hang our hopes on rather than focusing on the negatives, which are plentiful these days.



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