Channel 4’s lead racing presenter Clare Balding will present her first Cheltenham Festival from Prestbury Park next week, headlining a very new agenda for Channel 4 from Tuesday, 12th – Friday 15th March.
Looking ahead to The Festival, Clare says: “When joining Channel 4 Racing I said that my highlight will be broadcasting live on television from the Cheltenham Festival for the very first time, and I can’t wait.
“The Cheltenham Festival attracts the best horses in a beautiful setting with a constant atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm. It will be a privilege to see Sprinter Sacre run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday – he will stop the show.
“For me personally 2012 was an awesome year with The Games and 2013 is proving equally so – I have been given the chance to present my home sport all under one roof.”
Coverage throughout the festival will deliver to the nation twenty thrilling races and over twenty hours of live action, featuring the world’s best jump jockeys and horses, via three daily packages – Festival Morning Line, Cheltenham Festival and Evening Highlights which start March 12th.
Carl Hicks, Executive Producer responsible for IMG Sports Media’s racing coverage explains: “Everyone at IMG is very excited about bringing the drama and excitement of Cheltenham Festival to Channel 4’s viewers for the first time. Coverage of the event has a great tradition, and we hope to continue and develop this with some great stories set to unfold over the four days.
“Personally I last worked on the event for TV back in 1994 – and almost every year since I’ve been a paying spectator at one of the country’s best excuses ever for having s few days off work or school! It is said that these four days are the Olympics for jump racing participants and fans, and the great thing is we get our Olympics at home every year!”
Channel 4 Racing: Cheltenham Festival coverage will broadcast from 12:35 – 4:20pm on Channel 4 with a daily delivery of five races presented by Clare Balding. She will be joined by Nick Luck with Jim McGrath, Mick Fitzgerald, Graham Cunningham and Ted Walsh to provide unrivalled analysis from the track-side studio. Alice Plunkett and Rishi Persad will be out and about bringing all the atmosphere of the thrilling four-day meeting to the screen. Tanya Stevenson will relay the betting updates, with Simon Holt calling home the winners for his thirteenth consecutive year. Alastair Down returns to the fold to deliver daily essay-style preview packages and has also put his voice to the acclaimed documentary Jump Boys which will be first shown Saturday, March 9th ahead of The Morning Line and repeated on the night of the opening day of the Festival.
With IMG Sports Media at the helm more cameras, fresh angles and the latest technology will be used to broadcast the four-day meeting. 39 cameras will be deployed to cover the spectacle with new facilities for the water jump and the two-mile start providing unrivalled footage for the Supreme Novices and Champion Hurdle starts.
Making its Festival debut from the cinematic world is the Movie Bird Crane, with its vertical and horizontal movement from three to 20 metres. The crane will be placed at the last fence on the inside of the track giving viewers an unprecedented view of the final leap before the valiant uphill finish. It will also be used to achieve the best possible angle for the closing stages of twenty championship contests.
The latest high motion camera will once again be deployed at various fences to capture horseracing’s finest athletes, recording images of up to speeds of 1,000 frames per second. The Blimp will continue to cover the overhead images through the week.
Through careful negotiation, access to the Jockeys’ Changing Room during the Festival has been extended by the British Horseracing Authority and the Professional Jockeys Association. Former jockey Mick Fitzgerald will tell the daily stories of the sporting stars pre-race build ups. All potential Stewards Enquiries will also be screened live throughout the meeting.
Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4’s Sports Editor, explains: “The Festival is always a special event on 4 and we’re looking forward to seeing Clare, Carl and the team get stuck into one of the iconic sporting events of the year. This is the first of our Crown Jewels of the year and IMG have been working tirelessly filming features and innovating to bring the excitement of the event into people’s homes.”
To complement the coverage an array of features will be injected into the programmes including a world exclusive with former Nicky Henderson stable staff, Conor Murphy, in his new USA training role following his £1 million betting scoops in 2012. Also included is a four-part Barry Geraghty at home series, an archived based feature: Henderson verse Nicholls, a two part Davy Russell interview, daily Alastair Down essay of the day plus more.
CHANNEL 4 RACING: FESTIVAL MORNING LINE: 7:55am (March 12 – 15)
CHANNEL 4 RACING: CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: 12.35pm - 4.15pm plus evening highlights
Friday’s Cheltenham BetFred Gold Cup is off at 3.20pm with Channel 4 Racing: Gold Cup Re-Run at 7.20pm.