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.