How To Ruin Channel 4 Racing

Day One of Royal Ascot is now over, and what a day of racing it was. But bare with me as we swerve away from the racing…as Channel 4 seemed to do over and over again during today’s 260 minutes of coverage.

I didn’t use a stopwatch to time how much attention the racing received, and even if I had the fact I kept changing over to At The Races or RacingUK rather than putting up with the unbearable droning of Gok Wan and Co.

Imagine the scene: you’re watching Manchester City v Chelsea on Sky Sports in the pub and the whistle blows for half time. After the (seemingly never-ending) advert, we swap back to the studio. Jamie Redknapp welcomes you back to the studio before introducing Gok Wan for a 15 minute discussion of the “in colour” for football kits this year. Red is so out, it’s all about the yellow.

So why do we, with Channel 4’s strategy clearly not working (the Derby figures alone are enough to make you weep into your Racing Post) have to put up with inane fashion discussion? The best horses in the World have turned out for Royal Ascot – Able Friend, Solow, Gleneagles, Belardo, Shamal Wind – all Grade 1 winners from Hong Kong, Ireland, Australia, France & USA. And yet the racing today seemed a side show, almost an inconvenience to Channel 4. Unless they could use their favourite on board jockey cam to show you Gleneagles sweeping past outsider Aktabantay (no shock there), the racing was glossed over.

My biggest disappointment was the lack of pre-race coverage. A brief walk through the parade ring, a flick through the racecard, and a short interview with connections if you were lucky. You could spend days, if not weeks, poring over the form of each race at Royal Ascot, watching replays and looking into breeding. Where are the ex-jockeys, the recently retired ones people are interested in (Richard Hughes will be free next season, hint hint, and don’t forget A P for Cheltenham…), talking through horses and arguing about form and whether the Ascot track will suit Able Friend or whether Consort’s victory was all that?

A brief sentence, a quick quote or line or soundbite about each horse when they’re in the parade ring, is all well and good, but that’s not the racing we love. There’s no doubting I’m a huge horse racing fan but I’m starting to think I’m not Channel 4’s target audience and surely that’s insane. Forget the casual viewers who tune in to watch one race and then stick around for fashion – cater for the proper racing fans. They’re the ones who will spread the word, who will take their friends racing and get them involved, not the people who watch Royal Ascot on a Wednesday if they’re sick off work or because they’re been told by a friend that their Uncle’s brother’s best mate is a stable boy for <insert trainer name here> is an absolute banker at 66/1 (although that’s a story for another day…)

Here’s some of my favourite tweets about Gok Wan’s performance today, just to show I’m not the only one!



And one last one…

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