Tuesday, 30 May 2017


Remember that song ‘Talk Talk’ by a pop band of the same name. Imagine it playing as background music to a montage of all the ITV, RUK and ATR announcers.The song was from the 1980's, an era of unstimulating tunes as by the end of the 1970's the creation tank was empty, everything worth trying having been covered.

The creation tank of those who produce and direct horse racing coverage on televison also appears empty. That is why they rely on gimmicks to complicate things and think it necessary to avoid silence at all costs .

With horse racing there appears to be an unwritten rule of law that those who present and co present the sport on TV have to continually talk and talk. But have the audiences ever been consulted? Perhaps they don’t want those prickly uncomfortable questions such as ‘why are so many of you needed on a single programme ?’

Directors who wrongly believe that the audience need filler, which translates basically to someone to continually talk inanely for long periods, have chosen the wrong character in Mick Fitzgerald for one of the lead roles as he is continually found out. However much he tries to be the serious co-presenter, putting on a professional expression, a sudden injection of resolve into the tone, he is not kidding any of us.

Fitzgerald  now appears so much that you could be forgiven for believing he lives inside your television set. The other week he said something similar to‘when I start looking at the form for these races a couple of days before.......’Well whatever his idea of form study is he most definitely does not give the impression that it amounts to much more than a cursory look through the Racing Post.

He has never really come across as someone who has too much enthusiasm for flat racing either. Remember during his very early days in his new role when each member of the team on call that day picked out their favourite Arc de Triomphe winner. Fitzgerald picked out Sea The Stars concentrating on the moment when he went to win his race, describing it in a voice what sounded like feigned enthusiasm.

Now every single racing enthusiast who watched that running of the Arc was left with that unforgettable memory of how Mick Kinane desperately fought to settle his charge in the early stages of the race. And how it looked that it was verging on calamity for more than a few worrying  moments.You cannot conjure up the names Sea The Stars and Arc de Triomphe without that image.

Fitzgerald’s  observations left the viewer in no doubt that he 'd been given a favourite Arc winner by the director and been shown the last couple of furlongs to come up with  his script.What is frustrating about Fitzgerald in his television  role is that when he was riding he came across more articulate with the spoken word than most of his weighing room colleagues and one who you would envisage bedding into the TV role better than most ex riders.

Of course whether ex riders are suitable candidates for broadcasting is very doubtful. John Francome  slotted in nicely on C4. He never tried to be a weights and measures expert, was reserved word wise but was witty in the Carry On style and paired well with Timeform Jim McGrath.

But over on the Beeb there was Willie Carson. Most of us still remember him for being a truly great jockey in his pomp but unfortunately most under 40 will know him as a gibbering assistant television presenter, a figure of caricature. He would never really settle in to that role. When the right words would not come out we got a cackle instead.

Racing is a sport where everyone has their own opinion whether born from traditional or random methods. The audience don't sit there dependant on every word. Truth is if asked we would rather have periods of silence. Pictures of proceedings ticking along do not need continual vocal overlay.
Indeed pictures with periods of silence appeal as being therapeutic.

Those responsible for drawing up the format of how the sport is broadcast could do a lot worse than watch some other sports. Cricket has it right. Gower, Athers, Nasser, Mikey, Beefey and Bumble. All fit in well, all very insightful, chilled out, in control and a terrific natural camaraderie between them.

Golf too. roaming commentator Wayne Riley acts the goat but he is astute and eerily accurate when predicting how a player will escape or not from his poor lie. The studio teams are with the odd exception also excellent.

The Grand Prix coverage on Sky is covered by a team who are a bit too suave for some. But then again it is a sport for the suave. And they deliver a great show. Their after race post- mortem is expertly delivered with a natural coordination in existence. No needless, sudden raising of the tone. There is time to breath.

Those that produce and direct televised horse racing need to have a re-think and ask themselves why they are continually out performed by rival sports coverage if they really do want the current trends bucked. So far there is little sign that they have learnt anything.

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