Sunday, August 28, 2016

TV Times

One runner this week, Roy tomorrow in the Amateurs' Derby (no longer sponsored, I believe, by Moet & Chandon, which for many of us it always will be) at Epsom.  I am not particularly hopeful as it's a strong field.  But weak fields are not an option at present now that his rating is over 70; and he has earned the right to take part, so we'll travel with some degree of hope, notwithstanding that I am far from convinced that he can win off his current mark.  But his rating won't be dropped unless he runs somewhere.  And he'll do his best, as always, and Ross Birkett will ride him well.

The race won't be shown on ITV, but next year some racing at Epsom will be on that channel, at the Derby meeting even if not at the great course's other fixtures.  The forthcoming ITV presentation line-up has been a big talking point over the past couple of days, even if, for obvious reasons, not on the Sunday Forum in which I took part on ATR this morning.  We'll have to see how ITV goes, but I do fear that the management has missed a trick by failing to recruit Nick Luck, who is pretty much the perfect racing TV anchorman.  In general, in fact, I fear that its seeming determination to eschew the C4 team (bar Rishi) and plough its own very different furrow might end up looking to have been a case of cutting off its nose to spite its face.

I am not in a position to venture an opinion about how Ed Chamberlain will fare as I have never knowingly watched a TV programme which he has presented.  In fact, I don't know what he looks or sounds like.  We are told that he is very good, but he'll need to be if he's going to do the job as well as Nick would have done it.  In general, from a racing man's point of view (if not necessarily from the perspective of a general sports' fan) using a general sports' presenter to present racing does not work, simply because he/she generally has too many gaps in his/her specialized racing knowledge.  But that, of course, is probably not an issue for the general sports' fan.

We all like to say that we would have done things differently, so here are a couple of suggestions / observations.  If one wants to use a general sports' broadcaster as a racing presenter, John Parrott is about as good as one could get.  He is a very good presenter and his passion for racing means that the depth of his knowledge is excellent.  And this passion means that his love of the sport comes across in the programme.  It has to be plain that the presenter loves the show which he is covering, rather than is merely doing his job, however suavely he or she does it.  After all,  if he doesn't love it, how can he be expected to inspire the viewers to do likewise?

Secondly, one of the more surprising tweets of yesterday came from the very good and very nice Oxfordshire / Berkshire border-based trainer Geoffrey Deacon, who expressed a fear that, with Oli Bell, Hayley Turner and Francesca Cumani on the team, the presentation might be too Newmarket-centric.  ("Will need to ensure content won't be too parochial").  I don't consider this likely to be a problem, but it got me thinking about how we could eliminate any such fears.  And, as so often, I looked north of the border (even if at least one, and I suspect two, of the trio actually live(s) in Cumbria).

Anyway, if we had a solid representation of broadcasters from up there on the team, Geoffrey's fears would be truly groundless.  Heading the contingent would, of course, be 'Broonie', ie Gordon Brown.  He has never been on terrestrial TV, but it would be wrong to overlook what a bloody good racing TV presenter Gordon is.  Put the show in his hands and it would be as safe as if Nick Luck was at the helm - and that praise is as high as you can get.  For his side-kick?  Well, John Budden, of course.  If you aren't familiar with John, then that's your loss, and it means that you have enjoyed too few racedays at Carlisle and in Scotland.  Which, too, is your loss.

John's eyesight is not good now, but that is not an insurmountable problem.  As far as I know John is still doing raceday presentation work (he was the last time I was at Carlisle anyway, which was a couple of years ago) and if he were to grace the nation's screens he would become a cult figure overnight.  He is an excellent racecourse presenter whose depth of knowledge, passion for the sport, respect for its human and equine players, and ease behind a microphone are all first-rate.  So if we put Gordon and John in key roles, find a part for Scotland's most diligent and ubiquitous pressman Bill Harvey, and then ensure that James Sherwood (of London, of course, not Scotland or Cumbria, but we're on a roll here so we won't stop) is pivotal to the Royal Ascot coverage - and, hey presto, all our problems are solved!

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