Frankie Dettori has been backed to light up Thursday nights as the Racing League heads to Yarmouth for its opening night.
The team-based competition returns for its third instalment and seven regional squads will do battle for top honours over the course of six evening fixtures, starting on the Norfolk coast where Dettori’s East region will have home advantage.
The Italian, who will be in action at Yarmouth, was a key player in Wales and The West’s victory in 2022, but he has a new role for this year, switching to the player-manager position for the East region which encompasses his adopted home of Newmarket.
Racing League CEO Jeremy Wray is delighted to have Dettori involved once again and views it as a great opportunity for racegoers to see the weighing room great in action before he hangs up his boots at the end of the season.
He said: “Frankie being involved as one of the team managers is great and the fact that when available he is going to places he wouldn’t necessarily be riding at is superb.
“For a lot of racing fans it could be their last chance to see him in the flesh and they perhaps wouldn’t necessarily be expecting to see him at tracks like Yarmouth. They are going to get that opportunity which I think is great.
“He’s been a big supporter of Racing League and I think fair play as no one is pretending it’s all the big races, so you could easily get the big personalities saying ‘no thanks, it’s not for me’.
“But he’s always been supportive and he rode in it last year. That made a big difference. Watching him ride winners in the Racing League was fantastic and the crowd that was there appreciated it as he’s someone who always gives everything. To have him involved the way he is this year is fantastic.”
Yarmouth is one of three new tracks on Racing League duty this season as Chepstow and Wolverhampton also join the roster in place of Doncaster and Lingfield, something Wray believes will add to the regional aspect of the event and also shines a light on different venues.
He added: “We’ve gone further afield and we are aware where we sit in the calendar. So with holiday mode in mind, I think going to Yarmouth to start with at the height of the summer holidays has got to be good.
“Going to Wales and Chepstow and to Wolverhampton, that will be fun, and we’re looking forward to taking the Racing League around the country. For a couple of years we’ve done two at Newcastle and a few at Lingfield and we’ve cut down on those and spread it around a little.
“Last year, the crowds that we were hoping to get, for various reasons we didn’t really hit the numbers we wanted. We’ve had a fairly big push on that this year and are hopeful names like Frankie will be a big help with that.”
In a bid to level the playing field, Wray has also tinkered with the trainers representing each region, with some set to sport the colours of an area different to where their stables are based.
“I would like to think that all the teams will have an equal chance this year,” said Wray.
“You will see some of the trainers not necessarily representing the regions they train from and I think that is good for the competition. In other sports it doesn’t really matter where people are based and I think we probably got too hung up on that early on.
“I’ve transferred Andrew Balding to Scotland and I’ve got George Boughey representing Ireland and it just means it strengthens all those teams. When you have a seven-team competition like this, you absolutely want them all to have an equal chance.”
Wray went on: “From my point of view it is about having seven races that are totally competitive.
“We sit very much in between the elite end of the sport and there are some big festivals around us to look forward to featuring all the best horses. But I think quite often these horses and trainers taking part in Racing League can get overlooked amongst all of that and this is a great opportunity.
“The racing is massively competitive, there is a fun atmosphere and I kind of think it just fits as being something different.”