Friday, 23 June 2017


The build up and hype to the new look , sole terrestrial TV horse racing coverage in the United Kingdom dragged on for a long time. Who was staying, who was going. Who would be there on merit and who there through connection or by fitting the PC agenda.

The problem with taking a critical approach to those they hire to gas away to us is that having enthusiasm, long learned knowledge and love of the subject is not suffice if you lack the composure and dare I say looks to pass a screen test.

We waited to see what extra additions would be brought to the table, both in personnel and features.

Royal Ascot is the apt time for a mid-term report.

The Regulars:

Ed Chamberlin  -  I bumped into a long term racing fan the other week who remarked, ' What a smug git that Ed Chamberlin is. Wish we could return to the original C4 team '.

Not sure what to make of him. We know he is a proper racing enthusiast. But he does indeed sometimes give the impression that he thinks very highly of himself. Is he an improvement on Nick Luck ? Undecided on that one.

Matt Chapman - What worked OK in the studio is not working in roam mode. Was agent for Daryl Holland when that rider was at his peak so cannot be the bonehead that he portrays himself as and I would imagine he is a completely unrecognisable character in private than what we see. On the plus side he is not afraid to be critical and go against the flow.

Rishi Persad - Always expected him to be covering his favourite sport of Cricket by now. It seems very likely he was originally brought in to the old team to give representation from his ethnic background and send out the inclusive message though I doubt they themselves would believe they share much in common at all with the son of a barrister. Seems a cheerful bloke but has plenty to be cheerful about.

Olly Bell - Got the opportunities through his connections but does do the job fairly well.

Hayley Turner - Homely sort of character, no irritation level at all but whether she is suited to TV not so sure.

Francesca Cumani - an improvement on the self - important Claire Balding and another who does not irritate.

Mick Fitzgerald - Subject to more more threads on the Betfair Forum than anyone else.

Luke Harvey - Quite witty and a cross between Richard Pitman and John Francome .Would be better with a form book bud besides him to build up some rapport with.

Alice Plunkett - An extremely annoying individual who clearly fails to endear herself to the masses.

Brian Gleason - Many years ago the Beeb would bring in Tommy Stack for the jumping festivals. He slotted in perfectly alongside Julian Wilson. All very professional and orderly.

Gleason is adopting an extrovert role which is clearly not the real him and all very discordant. His interviews are poor too.This week in true Derek Thompson style he was fawning all over Sheikh Mohammed. Moments later he was being pushy with Wesley Ward.

Richard Hoiles - Established first rate race caller. We've known that for a long time.

The Weather Girl - Excess money in the spending budget. No need whatsoever.

The Presentation:

Misguided by consultants there is clearly an agenda to capture a new audience. They believed this was achievable but six months in the viewing figures returned are far from promising.

Unless you back-fit them to include ITV and not ITV 4 and just select racing days, they have under performed. The marginal improvement so far at Ascot this week is misleading as the Euro Championships were in full flow this time last year.

Some would have you believe that  terrestrial TV racing coverage had become stagnated and dull but trying quick fixes moulded in the false belief that a fresh,wide eyed audience were watching from their homes set things off in the wrong direction.

If audiences like a bit of what they see they will go and explore for themselves. In the day of the internet this is easier than ever before. It's not like you have to go to a local library and find a book on the history of the Epsom Derby.

Thus there is no need for any dumbing down to this imaginary new audience. Needlessly breaking up the flow to explain terms, customs and procedures to keep with this false belief that the sport has to change to capture the interest of the MTV generations.

Truth be told is that the sport itself has been losing it's appeal and is unable to attract a new flow of fans.Citing large attendances on Summer Saturdays at the 'cult' venues such as York and Chester is highly misleading. 

Admittedly they will fill the coffers of the said courses by paying the admission price, and spending on food and drink all day. But when they leave, sunburnt and worse for wear, most will not be betting regularly on horses. In fact for many the next bet they have on a horse will be on their next visit to a racetrack.

Racing may soon need to downsize and must protect its core audience and prevent it from dwindling any further. If new fans unexpectedly emerge then great, but it won't be down to any misguided 'initiative'. They like it or they don't.

After a reasonably promising start the new look terrestrial TV coverage is very much the same as the old. We can never have enough stable or stud visits, or archive footage of horses or trainer and jockey interviews from years gone by, but we don't need a large team with a disorganised feel that comply with an agenda that is on the wrong path.

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