Televised horse racing enters a bold new era on New Year’s Day 2013 as the revamped Channel 4 Racing team lines up in the stalls to bring viewers the best action from around the country throughout the year.
All the sport’s headline events will exclusively live on Channel 4 for the first time in 2013, featuring 88 days of live action that will amount to over 300 hours of terrestrial exposure.
Clare Balding and Nick Luck will be fronting the new-look and extended Channel 4 Racing, starting with coverage of four live races from Musselburgh and a live link-up to trainer Nicky Henderson’s yard in Lambourn on New Year’s Day, following the abandonment of the scheduled meeting at Cheltenham.
Channel 4 will be the exclusive terrestrial home of all the sport’s premium events until at least 2016, including the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree’s three-day John Smith’s Grand National meeting, which will be shown live on Channel 4 for the first time in April 2013.
The summer months will be headlined by the Investec Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and there will be full coverage of the entire Flat Season QIPCO British Champions Series, including the season-ending Champions Day at Ascot.
Negotiations are continuing about the possibility of adding the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Dubai World Cup to its line-up.
Clare Balding and Nick Luck will be the main presenting duo at all the key festivals, with Balding expected to be present at least half of the channel’s racedays throughout the year.
They will be joined by some familiar faces that form the new on-air presenting team.
Regular Channel 4 contributors Alice Plunkett and Emma Spencer will be joined by Rishi Persad, who rejoins the channel after a decade in a similar role 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 with new recruits Graham Cunningham and former top jump jockey Mick Fitzgerald.
Simon Holt will deliver his usual distinctive race commentary at all the major events, and Tanya Stevenson will continue to provide all the essential betting news.
“I can’t wait to get started on presenting regular racing for Channel 4”, says Balding.
“I’m excited about presenting from Cheltenham for the first time on terrestrial television, being back at Newbury, Glorious Goodwood and working at York Racecourse for the first time since Royal Ascot was hosted there in 2005.
“Channel 4 has assembled a fabulous team and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Simon Holt added: “2013 should be an exciting year for racing as the sport searches for new stars to replace the likes of Frankel and Kauto Star, and it will be a particular thrill to call the races in which such new talent is most likely to emerge and, in the major races, come to fruition.”
IMG Sports Media take over the responsibility of producing Channel 4’s racing coverage having won the contract from previous incumbents Highflyer.
Carl Hicks, who has covered a variety of major events as the BBC’s former senior sports programme editor, including horse racing and the London 2012 Olympic Games, will be the Executive Producer of Channel 4 Racing and will lead a backstage team of racing and creative experts.
A number of new initiatives will form part of Channel 4’s new vision for televised horse racing, as the broadcaster looks to maintain its core audience as well as attract wider sports fans.
New to the sport will be a travelling expandable studio, providing a base for The Morning Line shows and for analysis and punditry during the live afternoon shows, giving the presentation of the new programme a fresh feel that puts the presenters and viewers at the heart of the action.
The adjustable height studio, skinned in the Channel 4 Racing livery, will provide viewers with a distinctive location backdrop at each racecourse.
Transported by the truck it sits on, the studio also features an open top terrace presentation area. Housed in the studio is a bespoke touchscreen table specifically created by U Touch and powered by Hego software.
The interactive race analysis tool will enable Channel 4’s punditry team of Jim McGrath, Mick Fitzgerald and Graham Cunningham to preview and review races using telestration but also drive the programme editorial with touchscreen access to jockeys, horses and trainers’ profiles and statistics.
An overhead camera will be placed in the studio to enhance the viewers’ experience.
Channel 4’s output will feature an increased concentration on high-quality racing, with the broadcaster keen to reduce the number of occasions that races will be shown from more than two racecourses.
An important change will be the running time of each live Saturday programme, which will be extended to two-and-a-half hours, and the feature race of the day will be scheduled for 3.50pm, which will coincide with football half-times.
The 3.50pm time will not apply to either the Epsom Derby in June or the Grand National in April, both of which have later start-times.
Plans are also underway to improve winning-line camera angles and to allow the judge to announce photo-finish results simultaneously on television and at the racecourse.
Channel 4’s The Morning Line show will continue with Nick Luck at the helm and Alice Plunkett stepping in as relief presenter.
The show, live on-course from 8.00am each Saturday morning, will continue to provide racing enthusiasts with the usual mix of tales from the turf, racing updates and the latest betting news.
The Morning Line will also be broadcast on weekdays during Royal Ascot and the Festival meetings at Cheltenham and Aintree.
A new and revamped Channel 4 website dedicated to horse racing will be launched in the coming days, with IMG and Channel 4 working together to build new presences on other digital platforms.
Finally, as part of the broadcaster’s revamp a new Channel 4 Racing logo has been produced by in-house design agency 4Creative, which will feature in marketing, on-screen and on-course.
The design incorporates angular cuts and ears to create an abstract horse’s head onto the iconic Channel 4 logo.
Commenting on the revamp, Channel 4’s sports editor Jamie Aitchison says: “I’m delighted to be announcing some of the new features and technology that we will be introducing to our coverage from 2013.
“These will help us deliver compelling coverage for both our current racing audience as well as new viewers to the sport.
“The introduction of the studio brings much needed continuity between our morning and afternoon presentations and I’m incredibly excited about the possibilities that the interactive race analysis tool offers us.”
“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.”
In addition, Dubai will continue to sponsor the programme having recently signed a four-year extension.
The first edition of the new-look Channel 4 Racing goes out on New Year’s Day with four races from Musselburgh.
The two-hour broadcast includes live link-up to trainer Nicky Henderson’s yard in Lambourn on New Year’s Day, following the abandonment of the scheduled meeting at Cheltenham.
Clare Balding and Mick Fitzgerald will be joined by a variety of special guests at Henderson’s yard to look ahead to a spectacular year of racing, all exclusively live on Channel 4.
Nick Luck will be positioned at Cheltenham in the new Channel 4 studio with analysts Graham Cunningham and Jim McGrath, plus betting expert Tanya Stevenson.
Race commentary comes from Darren Owen at Musselburgh.
13:05 – MUSSELBURGH: totepool.com Honest Toun Handicap Chase 13:40 – MUSSELBURGH: totepool Handicap Hurdle 14:15 – MUSSELBURGH: totepool.com Happy New Year Handicap Chase 14:45 – MUSSELBURGH: Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle
LIVE: 1.00pm-3.00pm – Channel 4 / Channel 4 HD