For years now Channel 4 has been the one-stop source for regular televised horse racing events and highlights. However at the end of 2016 this long-running partnership will come to an end after nearly 33 long years and the baton will be handed back over to ITV who managed to reacquire exclusive free to air rights to British Horse Racing.
From the 1st January 2017 ITV Sport will be taking over with a deal that will allow them to show a minimum of 40 days of live horse racing on their main ITV channel and then a further 60 days that will be set to air live on ITV4.
The change has come mainly due to the poor ratings that racing had been getting on Channel 4 over the past 4 years when it took over from the BBC in broadcasting many of the major race meetings.
The official schedule has now been announced for ITV and it will kick off on the 1st January with a New Year’s racing day with all the action coming live from Cheltenham and the Totepool New Year’s Day Race Meeting at Musselburgh up in Scotland.
It’ll then be quite a wait until any more race meetings will appear at the main ITV channel with the next scheduled event not lined up until mid-March. Of course this is the 4-day long Cheltenham Festival which will get complete coverage on the channel which will be followed up the next month with several popular events including all three days of the Grand National meeting at Aintree including the big race itself taking place on Saturday 8th April.
Later that month there’s also all the action live from the Scottish Grand National at Ayr and Newbury as well as the Jumps Finale at Sandown and Haydock.
ITV have also announced plans to broadcast many of the other popular highlights in the racing calendar in 2017. There’s the Epsom Derby and all the glitz, glamour, spectacle and racing goodness from the week long Royal Ascot in June.
August features 9 days of racing from both Glorious Goodwood and the York Ebor meeting and just some of the highlights from later months include British Champions Day, the Open Meeting at Cheltenham and Lingfield, the Betfair Chase live from Haydock with Ascot on the day and also the King George at Kempton and Wetherby on Boxing Day.
There is however a selection of notable races which haven’t quite made it onto the main ITV channel and instead will be pushed down to the planned ITV4 schedule – view full schedule. The main trio in question happen to be the Coral Welsh National, the Sandown’s Tingle Creek meeting and also the Cheltenham Trials Day.
As ITV gears up for a year of racing it’ll be presenter Oli Bell who’ll be at the helm hosting each of ITV’s weekly racing morning magazine shows, whilst Richard Hoiles and Mark Johnson will be in the commentary box. The main team will include Hayley Turner, Mick Fitzgerald, Jason Weaver, Luke Harvey and Brian Gleeson. Racing legend Frankie Dettori and former Olympic track cyclist-turned-jockey Victoria Pendleton will also be chiming in with their comments and contributions.