RACING: Channel 4 unveils new horse racing team

Channel 4 has confirmed its full line-up of presenters, commentators and reporters for its exclusive coverage of horse racing on terrestrial television from 2013.

Having already secured the services of Clare Balding as lead presenter, experienced racing broadcaster Nick Luck will take on a key presenter role supporting Balding on all the sport’s major events.

Members of the current Channel 4 team including Emma Spencer, Jim McGrath and Simon Holt have been retained, and they will be joined by new names and faces on a refreshed Channel 4 Racing on January 1st 2013.

The new duo of Balding and Luck will lead coverage of all the key events on Channel 4, including the Cheltenham Festival, Aintree’s three-day John Smith’s Grand National meeting, the Investec Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the QIPCO British Champions Day.

Luck will independently present Channel 4 Racing’s regular weekly Saturday afternoon programmes.

Celebrating his newly appointed position, Nick says: “I would like to thank Channel 4 and IMG for what is an incredibly exciting opportunity.

“Together, they have some fantastic and dynamic ideas to drive the sport forward and I very much look forward to being part of the new team.”

Balding and Luck will be joined by racing specialists and Channel 4 regulars Alice Plunkett and Emma Spencer, with Rishi Persad also re-joining the channel after almost a decade at the BBC.

The trio will be responsible for trackside interviews with jockeys, trainers and winning connections, and will have a strong presence across traditional Saturday meetings for both jump and flat racing.

In-depth race analysis will be provided by the formidable Jim McGrath, who has been with Channel 4 Racing for more than 20 years.

He will be joined by new recruits Graham Cunningham and former top jump jockey Mick Fitzgerald.

Simon Holt will continue deliver race commentary on all the major events for Channel 4, and will be supported by Richard Hoiles.

Betting will continue to have a significant presence and Tanya Stevenson will relay the market movers and exchanges.

The Morning Line show will continue with Nick Luck at the helm and Alice Plunkett stepping in as an alternative front presenter.

The weekly magazine show, live on-course from 7:55am each Saturday on Channel 4, provides racing enthusiasts with tales from the turf, racing updates and the latest betting news.

In time, further key names will be added to the core presenting team which will be supported by new talent, including At The Races presenter, Gina Bryce and jump jockey Sam Thomas – the latter already familiar to Channel 4’s audience through his Dark Horse Morning Line series.

Carl Hicks, the former BBC Sport Senior Programme Editor, will be the Executive Producer of Channel 4 Racing with a team of horse racing and creative experts.

From 2013, Channel 4 Racing will be the exclusive home of the sport and will broadcast up to 88 days a year, showing nearly 300 hours of live action.

Channel 4 outbid the BBC to claim exclusive coverage of all UK horse racing in a four-year deal announced earlier this year.

Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4’s Sports Editor, says: “Being the new home of horseracing is a real privilege and I’m delighted to announce this carefully selected team of presenters and reporters; a mix of broadcasting heavyweights and racing experts.

“Sports fans have something to look forward to – our racing coverage will be insightful, intelligent and ground-breaking.

“I’m hugely excited about the future of racing on Channel 4 and greatly look forward to 2013.”

“I would like to thank all of the presenting team for their commitment and enthusiasm to Channel 4 and the racing coverage over the years.”

The most high-profile absentee from the new Channel 4 Racing line-up is veteran betting pundit John McCririck.

There is also no place on the refreshed team for long-time presenters Alastair Down, Derek Thompson, John Francome, Mike Cattermole and Lesley Graham.

Francome has decided to leave television to spend more time on riding work for trainer Clive Cox, while roving reporter Lesley Graham will leave Channel 4 at the end of 2012 to take up a new role as chief executive of the Racing Welfare charity.

McCririck’s role on the programme has been significantly reduced in recent years, making appearances only at the major events such as the Cheltenham Festival.

He told Press Association Sport: “Naturally I am devastated at being sacked after covering betting, first on ITV and then Channel 4, for 31 years.

“It had always been a dream to report from the racecourse betting jungles at Aintree and Ascot.

“Without any consultation or being asked to change my presentation style, I was only told by Channel 4’s Head Of Sport Jamie Aitchison half an hour before their press release.

“According to Channel 4, I’m being sacked after audience research.

“Yes, I do antagonise people as reactions to being twice in the Celebrity Big Brother house and also on Coach Trip prove.

“Yet, as Clare Balding, a terrific choice to lead the new young team, said recently, I’ve become the face of racing alongside Frankie Dettori and now of course Clare herself.”

McCririck added: “Racing continues to prosper and is a magnificent sport for all ages and classes of society.

“I trust those now in power, having shown their macho images as all new producers do by getting rid of their most well-known older performer, don’t forget that racing appeals to all generations.”

The new Channel 4 Racing team will present their first show together live from Cheltenham Racecourse on Tuesday, January 1 2013.

Channel 4’s coverage will be produced by IMG Sports Media, who take over from long-standing producers Highflyer.

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12 Responses to RACING: Channel 4 unveils new horse racing team

  1. Anonymous says:

    cant believe channel 4 are replacing are replacing mike cattermole with rishi persad,terrible decision which i think they will ultimately regret.

  2. Aaron Haroun says:

    Derek thompson,Mike Catermole and John Francome bad choice to getrid of them they are the best three.Derek Thomson has a wealth of experience . As for Rishi Persaud joining channel 4 will be a disaster all he is good for is nodding his head and agreeing with people

    • george lockwood says:

      Tragic, in John Francome racing had someone who said what he thought not what should be said, his knowledge on horses was listened to by me and many hundreds of punters up and down the country, if he thought a horse didnt have a chance he would say so, oh i have read it was his choice to leave but surely if you have a winning team as has been the case for many years why change it, ok some needed to go but not JF, i have lost count the number of times J Mcgrath has said to JF, im the last person to critisze JF with his knowledge and now you let him go for M Fitzgerald, who will only say the right things to please the new management team and not what you should have been said, and considered the punters viewing at home, Claire Balding has a wide knowledge of horses but if you had listened to her on bbc1 racing , she would always speak over W Carson as if he didnt know what he was talking about?, i have been in business many years and i know when you get quality staff you hold onto them, come what may, so it looks very much like the knives were out, such a shame.
      On a happier note, do you not think as cheltenham approaches it would be good to view some of the pre-cheltnham meets where trainers and jockeys give their opinions on horses running at the festival, now that would bring in the viewers.

  3. pete organ says:

    better get back big mac, thommo , and francome real quick cos its a disaster to loose them

  4. mike whitehead says:

    im still in shock after channel 4 has got rid of derek thompson, mike cattermole and john francome saturday will not be the same great loss to the sport.

  5. Anthea and Phil says:

    Channel 4 has always produced superior racing coverage to the BBC. To import reject presenters from the BBC leads us to the conclusion the racing coverage will be much inferior. Little racing but lots of fashion and hats!!! We fear the worst.

  6. Paul Constance says:

    I’m disappointed that Alistair Down, Mike Cattermole, John Francome aren’t being retained. Why is Gina Bryce on the team.

  7. Dave Lomax says:

    So disappointed with the new channel 4 racing team of mainly reject BBC presenters. Coverage now will be mainly fashion, with a bit of racing to fill in the gaps. Will really miss John Francome, Alistair Down ( just won racing journalist award for the 3rd consecutive year ), Thommo, Mike Cattermole, and even Big Mac, who brought lots of serious debate, about sensitive subjects, to the programme, which, in my opinion was a good thing. At least these people were not afraid to air their own views on some controversial racing matters. Clare Balding and Rishie Passad. just go along with the popular viewpoint. A pair of YES Men. I will no longer be watching this watered down version of what, for many years has been an excellent racing programme.Can’t believe the new hierarchy have been so stupid. Channel 4 Racing R.I.P.

  8. Anonymous says:

    WHAT A STUPID THING TO DO GETTING RID OF BRILLANT PEOPLE LIKR DERICK THOMPSON JOHN FRANCOME ALASTAIR DOWN ALOT OF MY FRIENDS WILL NOT WATCH CH 4 RACING AGAIN

  9. Louise Bertrand says:

    Really not enjoying the new Morning Line format at all, seems to have lost its soul and become all virtual, Bring back the old team, it was great viewing then with humour and knowledge combined, how I miss it. Things are not the same and very disappointed with Channel 4 for their new approach. The tried and tested formula they had worked really well with all those personalities like John F., the brilliant Alistair Down, even John McCruick for added colour, Mike and Derek too, not the same. I suppose I will have to get used to it though as they have a monopoly now. Where is Simon Holt? I hope he makes a reappearance soon………………………….

  10. njhag says:

    Rumours today that Alaistar down will be back for the festival. I do hope this is true.

  11. Sarah Wales says:

    Graham cunningham is an irritating ingratiating smug git.
    Bring back mac, tomo,greatest jockey and fat al. Why did coverage not extend to the final 2 races of each day?

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