I will back Down

I will back Down
Alastair Down should stay on Channel 4 Racing

Keep Al campaign starts here!

Some superb coverage from the ‘old team’ at Channel 4 Racing this weekend as they used their vast experience to bring us the glory of the Open meeting at Cheltenham.

None more so than the superb Alastair Down.

We all know that we will miss the presence of John Francome when new producers take over coverage of the racing next January. But Francome left of his own accord.

But the loss of Alastair Downing remains a mystery and is a bitter blow to those who love their racing and enjoy watching it on terrestrial television. And so it proved today, Saturday, when Alastair (aka Big or Fat Al) was at his imperious, relaxed best presenting coverage of the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase day.

Alastair Down knows his racing. Loves his jumps racing and is hugely respected by those who make their living from the sport.

First and foremost he is a great writer on the sport. And great is not a word I use lightly when it comes to modern day journalistic standards. The Racing Post would be half the paper it is without him.

As I said in my original blog post about the changes at Channel 4 Racing, which you can read here, http://wordofsport.blogspot.com.es/2012/10/channel-4-racing-runners-riders.html I do not know the reasons for Al not being hired by the new production company, IMG. Maybe I shall ask him when I am in his company during next Saturday’s ‘The Morning Line’ programme, live from Haydock Park. Maybe I won’t!

But I urge the new Executive Producer of Channel 4 Racing, Carl Hicks, to think again and get Al on board.

My campaign to keep Alastair Down presenting the winter coverage of Channel 4 Racing begins here. And, in the words of Tom Petty.. I won’t back down.

Or rather i will. I am backing Alastair Down.

I suspect I am not alone.


  1. Tom Guy 6 years ago

    Reading Alistair’s piece on JT McNamara in today’s Racing [Post say’s everything about Channel 4 racing dwindling figures, absolute madness.
    It’s like having an orchestra without the strings section.

    • Author
      Vern 6 years ago

      He is missed, Tom, for sure. One of the finest writers of his generation and superb when voicing over video packages. He may not have a face for telly, but he offers gravitas. There were understandable reasons he was not hired by the new production company two years ago, but I cannot go into them here, sadly. I too miss Alastair.

  2. Neil Harris 8 years ago

    Thank you for the reply Vern.
    I agree on Nick Luck’s expertise, just personally can’t take to him. But I couldn’t on RUK either. I’m sure many people like him and that’s why he’s got the top job.

    • Author
      Vern 8 years ago

      The views of public who liked him will not have been considered. If public appeal mattered to TV bosses, Alastair would still be there. What an Executive Producer wants from a regular presenter of live TV is reliability, a professional approach and someone who will be both consistent while improving all the time. That’s Nick Luck. That’s why he is there. I get why many racing viewers don’t take to him. I totally get that. But with my TV producer hat on – and having seen him work at close quarters – I would be very happy to be speaking to him in his earpiece on live show. One thing that is often overlooked by viewers, though not C4, is the previous TV presenting experience of Jim McGrath. From his TV-AM/GMTV days he has lots of experience hosting shows and has been very good when doing it for C4 racing. But trouble with him hosting is that you get less of his knowledge re horses and pedigree and means you will hear even more from GC.

  3. Neil Harris 8 years ago

    It was lovely seeing Alistair on ATR during Cheltenham week, that sunday forum was brilliant and his half hour news shows were must see’s. He has to be restored come Charlie Hall day in October, preferably with Alice, I think she is a throwback to the old days, a bit dizzy says the odd daft thing but a personality and knows her sport inside out.
    Nick Luck is just a turn off, and while I appreciate GC’s humour I’m not sure it comes across as humour on prime time tv more sarcasm.

    • Author
      Vern 8 years ago

      Alastair Down is a top written journalist and superb at writing scripts for, and voice overing, video packages. He was also an engaging presenter for C4 and, in these times when looks are all that seem to matter to TV Executives, Alastair defied the nonsense belief that you have to have a pretty face to be on TV.
      C4 had their reasons for dropping him from in vision coverage on C4 racing. I cannot go into them here but I believe C4 were wrong to spurn his talents. I am pleased to hear ATR are using him and he’ll do a good job for them.
      With my TV hat on I will say that Nick Luck is a very professional presenter who has improved in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. I know that for some people he does not come over as a man of the people. Ironic really because, in actual fact, he is. But there is only so far he can go in trying to play down his accent and well spoken voice. I find it refreshing in this day of ‘cor blimey, ay up love, regional accent obsessed broadcasting that we do have someone on air who can speak the Queen’s English properly. Nick does know his racing and is trusted by most people in the sport. I know that some racing viewers will never take to him. Personally, I would be happy if Alice Plunkett presented Morning Line each week and then, come the coverage of the racing, she did what she does best – interview winning jockeys etc – and Nick or Jim McGrath hosted the studio coverage.
      I welcomed the arrival of Graham Cunningham to C4 racing but confess now that the joke has worn thin. He seems determined to hog the camera. It is ludicrous that you have a man who has forgotten more about racing than GC will ever know (Jim McGrath) asking GC what he thinks. Last week GC interrupted Alice Plunkett while she was reading a link. Very unprofessional I thought. GC seems to think he is Eric Morecambe to Jim McGrath’s Ernie Wise. The puns from GC are lame. In fairness to him I will say that he does interact with racing fans on Twitter – which some presenters do not.
      Mick Fitzgerald should be paired more often with Jim McGrath in studio. You need someone who has ridden thoroughbred horses at the highest level. Shoving Fitz outside to interview people for one minute is a waste of resources.
      I will write a review on Channel 4 racing after the Grand National.
      Thanks for all your feedback Neil. It is appreciated. VG

  4. Jeffrey Bird 8 years ago

    AD brought something to C4 coverage that is no sadly lacking, a feel for the game. You get the impression that Nick Luck and Graeme Cunningham just don’t get the poetry in our sport. GC may know the formbook but there’s more too covering racing than that.
    JF retired, ok but restore AD now!

    • Author
      Vern 8 years ago

      Thanks for the feedback Jeffrey. Rather than repeating myself, probably best I refer you to my detailed reply Neil Harris above. VG

  5. harvyn hughes 8 years ago

    C4 Racing has gone backwards by miles since Alistair Down was replaced.
    There is now no bumour, no charisma and no personality amongst the presenters.
    It is all dull, boring and dead-pan.
    What a mistake.
    The decision maker at Channel 4 should be sacked for his short-sightedness !!!

    • Author
      Vern 8 years ago

      Check out my replies to others about this Harvyn. People working in positions of power in TV never admit they are wrong. So do not expect that! Alastair Down IS missed and that was a bad decision to drop him. There were reasons that I cannot go into here but I believe it was a wrong decision. In December I put out a tweet saying that Alastair was going to be used in an off camera role during the Cheltenham festival. The Head of Sport at C4 tweeted me back saying “Oh really, where did you hear that?” Implying I was wrong.
      Well I was right because they used Alastair to voice over the pre race preview VT packages – at which he is brilliant.
      It takes time to get a new team to gel. Not all people hit it off or have an instant chemistry. Likewise not all TV presenters do. It can take time. I do agree the humour has gone. Graham Cunningham thinks he is Eric Morecambe to Jim McGrath’s Ernie Wise. When, in fact, Jim McGrath has forgotten more about racehorses than Graham Cunningham will ever know.
      I certainly do not rush out of bed to watch the Morning Line any longer and I am far from alone.
      I will be writing a post about all this. Look out for it. Thank you for your feedback. VG

  6. kathryn bowmer 8 years ago

    I too cannot believe that Alistair Down was left out of the Channel 4 racing team along with the other good members of the team who have served the channel very well. Alistair gave heart and soul to the summing up of horses, jockeys and other racing characters an absolutly brilliant writer and presenter. Loved John Francome too I will miss his wit and jim and john’s discussions,great together. Clare is fine but I would rather have the others back. Not keen on some of the presenters they have kept.

    • Author
      Vern 8 years ago

      yes Kathryn. Alastair is a big loss. The Head of Spot at C4 said he chose between him and Nick Luck to present the winter coverage. Francs and Jim McGrath made for a great double act. I expect we’ll get used to it in time.

  7. Mark Brocklehurst 8 years ago

    P.S……Simon Holt is the best racing commentator EVER!!! And Richard Hoiles is also excellent

    • Author
      Vern 8 years ago

      Agreed Mark. I hope to be interviewing one or the other this year. Saw Simon at Haydock recently and he said he was up for it. He is the best around right now. Vernon

  8. Mark Brocklehurst 8 years ago

    I’m still in shock that C4 would split what was an excellent team of presenters up. Me and my dad watch every Saturday (we love our National Hunt racing) and there was nobody so knowledgable as Alastair and Mr Francome in my view. On the plus side Clare Blading is an excellent acquisition. She’s a thorough professional and will bring a knowledgable, friendly face to C4. Very disappointed though. Hope they both appear on our screens again in the near future.

  9. Paul Rogers 8 years ago

    I too am very disappointed that Alistair Down is not involved in the new set up. As a national hunt fan for a number of years now, I very much enjoyed watching Channel 4 racing and in particular Alistair. He is a class act and has made the racing hugely enjoyable for me. I sincerely hope he comes back along with Big Mc. If that doesn’t happen perhaps he will come across the Irish sea and work with the RTE racing team

  10. allison tovey 8 years ago

    I’m absolutely heartbroken Big Al won’t be continuing with C4. He is simply the best by a long, long way; on a
    par with the Late, Great Lord Oaksey, a very rare sort to find. His passion and knowledge for all things racing
    is unsurpassable and he comes across as a thoroughly nice bloke too. Clare is great but can be a bit too earnest sometimes. I cannot understand why they didn’t just add her to the existing team, now THAT would have been brilliant. I am very sad for Tommo, Mike Cattermole and even the annoying McCrirrick and now you say John Francome is going too, I just despair.

  11. John Castley 8 years ago

    Could not agree more. The Peter Allis of Racing.

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