This evening I received my first reminder that one of my selected horses for the new NH season is due to run tomorrow at Gowran. Hurrah! At last the proper racing is back and before I know it there will be races by the minute on Saturday afternoons that provide the start of the big build up to the Grade 1s that begin to shape the season.

Of course, I’ll be watching the Arc meeting on both Saturday and Sunday but on Saturday the highlight will be Ryanair winner Balko des Flos in the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase at Gowran. 

It’s a shame that Thomas Hobson has been ruled out of the Parislongchamp Prix du Cadran on Saturday and I’ll have a little interest on Mille Et Mille at a current 12/1 as an alternative. I can’t have Max Dynamite who is placed in these type of races worldwide but isn’t an obvious choice for me.

It’s also a shame that the strange weather is impacting on the start of the season. While Chepstow is seen as the first big meeting, Exeter has often thrown up a few early starters. However, the Racing UK season opener on 11 October is in serious doubt because the ground is firm, hard in places.

The big story is to do with TV coverage. I’ve subscribed to Racing UK for about 5 years. It’s expensive: nearly £300 a year, but their coverage (to date) has been excellent, including a lot of the early races that are not available on free to air. A big downer for me is that they don’t provide coverage on secondary TVs so you have to watch on the main TV that you’ve subscribed to. I’d love to go to bed and watch the highlights of the day but that’s not available, including the free to air programmes such as Nick Luck’s Sunday morning programme which would be ideal. I’ve complained to them about this but got nowhere.

So, ATR is going to be Sky Sports Racing from 1 January 2019. Significantly, it will be broadcasting in HD which is long overdue. However, we won’t be there for their grainy pictures of Irish racing but more of that below. Also of note they have secured the rights for Ascot, Bangor, Chester and will continue with Doncaster. The channel is free for all Sky basic subscribers.

The big news for Sky, as far as I’m concerned, came a few days ago when they announced that they have signed a deal with PMU to provide exclusive  coverage of all French racing. Unlike the occasional coverage that we’ve seen on ATR and Racing UK, they are going to provide coverage of everything, including regional and trotting races. Matthew Imi, chief executive of At The Races, said:

This is a very exciting new partnership for us with France Galop, Le Trot and PMU and one that has immense potential. French racing is already well supported by owners and trainers in the UK and Ireland but we will showcase the strength and quality of French thoroughbred racing throughout the year in a way that has never been done before by UK racing media.

Sky Sports Racing will provide consistent, live broadcast coverage of French fixtures with all relevant betting information and presentation crews regularly live on site at French racecourses. will deliver in depth and comprehensive online coverage of French racing to the largest digital audience of racing fans in the UK and Ireland. In addition, Sport Mediastream, ATR’s wholly owned video streaming platform, will make every one of PMU’s 10,000 French thoroughbred and trotting races available live to online betting operators in the UK and Ireland for the first time.

“We look forward to extending our long-standing relationship with PMU and now working more closely and proactively with the teams at France Galop, Le Trot and PMU on this venture which we believe will raise the already strong profile and appeal of French racing in the UK and Ireland considerably.”

Cyril Linette, CEO of PMU added:

We see a great opportunity for French racing in the UK and Ireland. At The Races will be a strong partner for us to help deliver our high quality racing to the online betting market and at the same time generate interest with regular broadcast coverage and promotion.

Switching channels, Racing UK will have from 1 January 2019 exclusive coverage of Irish racing. There has been a great deal of hoo hah on social media about whether Racing UK will be able to provide adequate coverage of the big Irish races when there are inevitable clashes. I think that we will have to wait and see. It is an obvious challenge but if, like me, you are OK with as near as possible live coverage and split screens only when absolutely necessary, I think that they should be OK. For me, a big plus will be seeing Irish races in HD for the first time and, from a National Hunt perspective, most big British races will be on a Saturday and most big Irish races on a Sunday. I’ll also look forward to top level presentation from people like Lydia Hislop and I hope that they will recruit Gary O’Brien.

It’s going to be a very different season and I understand those who say that Irish racing will be much less accessible. However, we have to bear in mind that there is still a great deal of free to air racing on terrestrial TV, e.g. the Arc meeting, so we shouldn’t be so fussy about where the hardcore stuff can  be accessed.

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