Sunday, 17 September 2017


Nine months have now passed since the new look team were assembled to cover horse racing on terrestrial television.After a start that promised there would be improvement on the recent past, it quickly went astray on the wrong path, and by Royal Ascot time was already looking an untidy mess.There has been no steadying of the ship since.

Yesterday, among other things,we had a moment with Matt Chapman acting very silly in cheer leading part of the crowd beneath him.Whether Chapman's script sheet has Brough Scott's paws on, is something only known by those behind the scenes,but the,'tut tut, oh Matt', from the rest of the team has remnants of the,'Oh Big Mac, you can't take him anywhere',attitude from the olden days.

They are creating Chapman as the new McCririck. It's clearly a case of, 'this is the character you will play, here is your script'.I've no idea what Chapman is like in real life.He was once a jockey's agent and a Racing Post staff writer,then got the break into television,an arena he is comfortable in. However,I would be confident that the person in real life is far distanced from the character he is playing.

There is footage on You Tube of McCririck speaking in the days when he was a greyhound and hare coursing correspondent for the Sporting Life.He spoke with an authentic, plummy accent, consistent with his education and upbringing.He hails from Jersey.

He was then given a character makeover,where he was portrayed as a working class citizen who supported Newcastle United.He would consistently refer to himself as being 'common'.He would jest with John Oaksey,comparing their different stations in life.He also claimed to be against the use of the whip in racing,and tried vainly to fashion a niche for himself in this area,something that was surprising and hard to take seriously given his support for hare coursing.

Strangely enough,McCririck did have a CV that included experience working in the betting ring,so his knowledge and suitability for the role was better than most.Nevertheless, it does not explain why they needed to invent a character for him to play.

Brough Scott has an advisory role on the program and his own appearances are happening more regularly.I would not be surprised if he was behind the addition of Tony McCoy to the team.No doubt on the basis that McCoy is one of the very few recognisable names in the sport.To many, Dettori and McCoy are the only names and faces they are familiar with,so Scott doubtless hopes to make more use of both of them.

The issue with the likes of Mick Fitzgerald and McCoy appearing on flat racing days,is that you don't have to be on the inside to recognise that the jump jockey community in general have little interest in flat racing and rightly feel threatened by its expansion into the Winter season.

Remember that interview with Josh Gifford a good few years back,when in his typical,emotive style, he expressed disbelief that he had heard rumours that the the bookmaking firms wanted to embrace the All Weather at the expense of National Hunt racing,as an All Weather contest takes far less time to be run,and frees more of it to allow them to peddle all the other dreadful stuff.

McCoy seems pretty deadpan with no annoyance factor.He would be fine on a jump race program, but trying to pretend he is a lover of the flat game is not going to stick.The only reason we need the likes of him and Mick Fitgerald,would be to benefit us with the nuances of steeplechasing and hurdle racing that only they will know about.

As an example,we are all guilty of making statements about such and such jockey is good at 'presenting' a horse at his fences.We often say this about jockeys that sit quiet and look stylish at their obstacles - John Francome and Graham Bradley for example.They looked good at 'presenting' horses to their fences.The forums regularly have posters claiming that Richard Johnson cannot 'present' a horse at its fences.We make such observations in blase tones without working out if we know what we are talking about, and whether, if it is true,is it that important seeing how successful someone like Johnson is.

As for whether racing fans have a right to criticise what we see as inept rides - yes, we certainly do in the same sense that a football follower can comment on a missed goal scoring opportunity due to incompetence.

At the end of the day not many of us would pass a screen test for television work.I once decided I would like to record all my comments about all the different red wines,then broadcast them on You Tube.This type of thing is popular now.If you are thinking of trying, for example,the Aldi Taurus Cider,or Asda own brand Merlot,you go on You Tube, type in and find some character consuming and giving frank assessments.  

So away I went, picked up a bottle,read out from the label,opened it and poured a glass out.I then commented on the aroma, then took a sip.After, I sat back and assessed my performance.It was absolutely shocking.Strange expressions, a daft 'pretend to be a connoisseur' tone and language,and embarrassing mannerisms such as a weird sniffing noise when 'sampling the aroma'.

If anyone believes working in front of a camera is easy,they could be advised firstly try themselves out on a You Tube video first, as the odds are they'll come a cropper at the first hurdle.

Nevertheless, passing a screen test but having no enthusiasm or limited knowledge for the subject matter is also a recipe for disaster.While terrestrial television has become a limited medium in the age of one thousand channels,play stations and the like,racing must broadcast its showcase events free to air.The oversized ITV racing team needs pruning,with those remaining delivering a professional output aimed at a knowledgeable audience.

But the show continues to speak to this mysterious,young audience,who are supposed to be eagerly watching. Anyone working in normal, packed workplaces know how much interest in horse racing has fallen.Footy is the God for the under thirty five punter. Even darts,snooker,golf,cricket and tennis are rivals to racing.Listen to them and note their ages.The very few who talk about a bet on the horses are over fifty. 

So, in explaining what the five classics and the Triple Crown are,they are not capturing this imaginary new fanbase, who they believe they have welcomed in.We know how audience viewing figures are measured.They are unreliable at best and more reasonably could be described as falsehoods.This new fanbase consists of an empty room with the light turned off and door closed.

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