Matt Chapman will have to combat the loss of Andrew Balding from his side if the London and The South team is to better last year’s second in the Racing League.
The TV pundit’s region had led the way since the opening night in 2022 and headed into the final week of action with a 36-point lead at the top of the table.
However, his roster of jockeys was limited by injuries and suspensions by the time the competition reached Newcastle and London and The South was denied the top spot following the action at Gosforth Park as an inspired 6,539-1 Saffie Osborne treble saw Wales and The West scoop the Racing League trophy.
Ahead of the 2023 edition kicking off at Yarmouth on Thursday, Chapman has been left reeling by a trainer restructure that has seen Kingsclere handler Balding switched to Scotland. But he has issued a rallying cry to his troops and is hopeful some fresh faces in his training ranks can combine with his team of senior jockeys to get some early points on the board.
“I’m really looking forward to Racing League 2023,” said Chapman.
“Last year’s experience was an odd one because on one hand my team did me proud, but by the end of it, I was left with very few riders due to various factors. My big hope for this year is that I have a full team throughout.
“I deliberately tried to pick some jockeys that are attached to trainers that I have. Eve Johnson Houghton and Charlie Bishop go together, Sean Levey and Richard Hannon go together and hopefully that might encourage them to run a little bit.
“I have gained William Muir and Chris Grassick and they provided quite a lot of runners for Jamie Osborne last year, so I’m hopeful they can do the same for me.”
He went on: “The big difference for me is that, for some reason best known by the powers that be, Andrew Balding has now become a Scottish trainer and I have lost Balding. Quite clearly when you lose one of the most powerful yards in the country, it is going to hit us numbers-wise quite a bit.
“I’ve rallied the troops. Someone like Gary Moore didn’t have a single runner in Racing League last year and I want to get Gary involved as he is a trainer I really respect. The signs are really good, I’ve already had trainers ring up and say they want to run a certain horse in a certain race.
“Fingers crossed we can do well, but I’m very conscious the loss of Balding is going to make it difficult, especially in the two-year-old races.
“This is a numbers game as much as anything and if you don’t have two runners in every race, you won’t win it. It was very evident that the people who couldn’t put two runners in every race last season, they dropped out of contention very quickly.”
Turning last year’s silver medal to gold is the ultimate goal for London and The South in the third edition of the multi-team competition, but Chapman also has his eye on denying Jamie Osborne a repeat of last year’s triumph.
He said: “The only aim is to beat Osborne, who was basically gifted success last year.
“He had that incredibly fluky day on that last evening of action and that is something that clearly won’t happen again. Generally in life you don’t get many lucky days and it is a long time between Milk It Mick, who won Jamie a Group One in black and white TV days, and his success in the Racing League. It’s hard to believe lightning could strike twice.”
Chapman has been a keen supporter and major figure in the Racing League since its inception and is eager to point out the positives of the six-night event which will provide a mid-week narrative throughout the height of summer, concluding at Southwell on September 13.
“I accept when I’m on TV for Racing League I am just going to get a barrage of abuse on social media and I find it all very pompous, as I have done with the Shergar Cup.
“As a punting medium, if that is what it is about for someone, then the Racing League is fantastic.
“Everyone is trying to get the best position, whether that is first place or 10th place, the prize money is excellent, the quality of horses will be fantastic and you have some of the best jockeys around riding in it.
“Competitions like Racing League are very easy for people to slate, but I enjoy it and I hope one or two others will.”