The new presentation team for ITV Racing is taking shape and today Richard Hoiles was announced as their first choice commentator.
It means his some time colleague Simon Holt has been overlooked by ITV, who take over the contract to cover racing on free-to-air television from January 2017.
Richard Hoiles was not their first choice. That was John Hunt, but the BBC commentator declined the advances from ITV. So the broadcaster turned to the much respected Richard Hoiles, a safe pair of hands in the commentary box and a man who I have also enjoyed watching when appearing on the sofa for the Channel 4 Saturday morning show, The Morning Line.
Head of ITV Sport Niall Sloane has had to make some tough choices when it comes to deciding which former Channel 4 faces should make the move to ITV. He’s decided the excellent commentator Simon Holt is not someone they want to use. Understandably, the mild mannered Holt is disappointed at that decision.
Holt said: “I had the call on Monday morning from Niall Sloane saying that there was nothing wrong with my commentating but I was too linked to Channel 4 to their liking. They wanted to have a new sound I guess.
“I am in a similar situation to Nick really, being so identifiable with Channel 4 having been with them for over 20 years – they just felt they wanted a break.
“I was kind of half expecting it. I have had a very good run. I have called some fantastic races over the years and I am very proud of all of that.
“I am sure I would have done a very good job for them. I said to Niall I wouldn’t have been too proud to take the second job. I just would have liked to have been part of the team and enjoyed being part of that new challenge.
“I think they had made up their mind quite a while ago. They might have told me a little earlier because I don’t think they had any intention of using me. They were courting John Hunt and when he declined I don’t think I was on the shortlist even then.”
Holt is right that he should have been told earlier if, as he believes, he was never part of the plan going forward. His achievements behind a microphone warranted greater respect. The “too identifiable with Channel 4” line is just an excuse. A mealy-mouthed way of letting him down gently. Are not Mick Fitzgerald and Rishi Persad now readily associated by the viewer with Channel 4? It’s true that both have worked for the BBC in years past, and that Rishi still does report on other sports for the BBC, but most racing viewers will consider them to be Channel 4 Racing stalwarts.
I wish Richard Hoiles well. I like the fella and I enjoy his commentaries. He knows he wasn’t the first choice but has accepted the role regardless. And all credit to Simon Holt for being prepared to be number 2 to Hoiles. But it is not to be.
The appointment of Ed Chamberlin as the chief ITV Racing presenter is a positive booking. Personally, I despair that ITV have given Matt Chapman a prominent role and he will likely lead to me switching off.
But the biggest problem for ITV Sport will not so much be the presentation team. It will be that so few days of racing will be aired on ITV1. They will be the high profile feature meetings. The remaining fixtures will be transmitted at the home of repeats of ‘Minder’ and ‘The Sweeney.’
How many people bother to tune to ITV4 to watch racing on terrestrial television remains to be seen.