Newmarket Red lead the way after opening night of Racing League
The six-race card was the first of six meetings which make up the inaugural running of the £1.8million competition, with a total of 12 teams taking part and every race worth £50,000 in prize-money.
Each race is restricted to 12 runners, with 25 points awarded to the winner down to one point for the 10th-placed horse.
While none of the horses trained Robert Cowell, John and Thady Gosden, Sir Mark Prescott or David Simcock managed to get their head in front at Gosforth Park, three finished second and two were third. With only one runner unplaced, Newmarket Red head to Doncaster next week leading the way on 85 points.
Second in the league are Team talkSPORT, who landed the fourth race of the evening with James Fanshawe-trained 13-8 favourite Bonneval, ridden by Jack Mitchell, and also enjoyed a second and a third from six runners.
Broadcaster Rupert Bell, who manages Team talkSPORT along with Alan Brazil, said: “There does seem to be quite a nice, friendly feeling about it, with all the teams doing their bit.
“I think it does feel right. It’s a long haul, but if the racing can stay as competitive as it is at the moment, that’s great.
“You’ve guaranteed 10 to 12 runner fields and surely the racecourses want that and the betting industry wants that.”
The victory of William Knight’s 20-1 shot Pearl Beach helped Team Racehorse Lotto end the night in third place on 63 points.
The opening race went to 15-2 chance Saluti for Team Arena (49 points overall), trained by Paul Midgley and ridden by Paul Mulrennan.
“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of money being pumped into our sport, which can’t be anything but good,” said the jockey.
“I know there’s a few people unhappy they’ve not been able to compete this year, but it might be their time next year. It could be a different trainer or jockey that gets a chance.
“There’s a real good buzz in the weighing room tonight. All the teams and everything just makes it a bit different – it’s not your usual Thursday night at Newcastle.
“You look at this horse. In his last three races, he’s been racing for buttons and tonight he’s come here and won £25,000.”
Strike Red claimed top honours in the second race for eToro Racing (53 points). The 7-1 shot is trained by Richard Fahey and was ridden by Paddy Mathers.
The eToro Racing team is managed by William Easterby, son of trainer Tim, who also has several horses in the squad.
Easterby said: “Richard thought Strike Red had a good chance after he won last time out.
“It’s been really easy working with Richard and Robin (O’Ryan, Fahey’s assistant), but we’ll only be cheering on their horses on a Thursday night!
I think it's great for the sport to get some publicity and to try to get more people into racing.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea. The owners are really enjoying the day and the prize-money is great.
“I think it’s great for the sport to get some publicity and to try to get more people into racing.”
Echo Red was a 5-1 winner for trainer Hugo Palmer, jockey Laura Pearson and the Goat Racing team (45 points).
Hayley Turner, no stranger to team competitions as a regular participant in Ascot’s Shergar Cup, got her name on the scoreboard by steering Andrew Balding’s Roscioli (28-1) to a narrow victory for Team ThoroughBid (47 points).
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