Team talkSPORT were crowned champions after the William Hill Racing League reached a thrilling conclusion at Newcastle on Thursday.
Twelve teams did battle in the inaugural running of a competition that got under way at Gosforth Park six weeks ago – and had since taken in further Thursday evening fixtures at Doncaster, Windsor and two at Lingfield before returning to the north east for the finale.
Every race – restricted to a maximum of 12 runners – has carried a total value of £50,000, with 25 points awarded to the winner down to one point for the 10th-placed horse.
In addition to the £1.8million in prize-money up for grabs, a further £200,000 in bonuses was on offer, with £150,000 going to the triumphant Team talkSPORT, who topped the final table on 368.5 points.
Rupert Bell, who managed the winning team along with fellow broadcaster Alan Brazil, said: “I think it’s been fantastic.
“I’m the Pep Guardiola of the racing manager world – Alan Brazil had absolutely nothing to do with it!
“I’ve been at every meeting and well done to the trainers and all their staff. Fair play to them.”
Rupert’s brother Michael Bell was was one of four trainers who saddled runners for the Team talkSPORT along with Ed Dunlop, James Fanshawe and Roger Varian. Between them, the Newmarket handlers will divide a bonus of £60,000.
Bell added: “You can’t knock the stable staff getting £30,000 – that’s fantastic. There’ll be one hell of a party at Fitzroy House (Michael Bell’s yard) – I better get invited!”
The team’s riders, led by Jack Mitchell, will split £30,000, as will the yard staff of the trainers and the owners whose horses made up the winning squad.
Mitchell was also the leading rider over the course of the competition, with a final night double aboard the Fanshawe-trained pair of Second Slip (6-4 favourite) and Bonneval (13-8 favourite) – who was involved in a dead-heat – taking him to six winners overall.
As well as splitting the £30,000 pot for the team’s riders, as top jockey Mitchell (276.5 points) earned a further £25,000.
He said: “It’s amazing – I’ve enjoyed every minute.
“It’s something new and great for these horses for this sort of prize-money.
“It’s not like F1 or the Premier League – the team table is changing all the time and it was exciting right until the end.
“I hope it’s got a few more people involved. I think the lads in the weighing room are trying to work out how many beers I can buy – there’s been beer orders, gin orders and champagne orders!
“I’ve had a lot great support from the trainers of the horses I’ve ridden.”
After a late charge, eToro Racing filled the runner-up spot in the team competition on 359.5 points.
Tim Easterby’s Delgrey Boy (11-1) dead-heated with Bonneval, while Strike Red was a clear-cut winner for Richard Fahey, who said: “I think it’s been good. It’s something different and we’ve had great fun with Tim and the team.
“I think a lot of people have enjoyed it and as the owner (of Strike Red) just said, he’s won over £50,000 with this horse here now, which he wouldn’t have done before.”
Team ThoroughBid (351 points), who began the night at the top of the league, ultimately had to make do with minor honours in third after drawing a blank in terms of winners.
Team Swish struck gold with the Clive Cox-trained and Saffie Osborne-ridden Tregony (14-1) and were best of the rest in fourth.
Despite two winners on the night courtesy of David O’Meara’s Firmament (20-1) and Paul Midgley’s Saluti (9-1) – both ridden by Paul Mulrennan – Team Arena finished 10th of 12 on 248 points.
Team manager Chris Dixon said: “Our weakness has been not being able to have enough runners, never mind winners.
“There’s things that they need to tweak to make the competition better. I get that some people don’t buy into the team concept, but I look at it from the point of view of owners and the prize-money is great.
“Firmament has been a great horse, but he’s not going to win that sort of money anywhere else anymore.
“And from a punting point of view, 10- and 12-runner races that are competitive is quite appealing when you spend a lot of your time looking at five- and six-runner races.”
Hayley Turner’s tally of 231 points saw her finish second on the jockeys’ table and land £15,000, with third-placed Saffie Osborne scooping £10,000.
Among those in attendance were 20-times champion National Hunt jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, who feels the competition has been a success.
He said: “I think it’s been very good for racing.
“Most importantly, it’s brought money into the sport that wouldn’t have been there before. That’s what it all comes down to in the end.
“I think it’s been a really good initiative. Hopefully it will continue and the next one will be better.
“Anything that can get different viewers and people talking about horse racing is a good thing.”