Once upon a time the BBC held the sporting rights to virtually every major sporting event. ITV was not so much the junior partner as the office boy. Sky has eroded BBC’s primacy and now horse racing, another fiefdom lost, is shown on Channel 4. Although they do not have a commentator to match the peerless Peter O’Sullivan – and such a commentator comes along every 100 years – they generally do a creditable job. Clare Baldling is in danger of becoming that dreaded being “a national treasure” but coming from a racing family and being a former president of the Cambridge Union she is a well-informed, articulate broadcaster. Personally I find her glad-handing with the great and good of British racing a little grating but she does give the coverage gravitas. The rest of the team are as enthusiastic as those who have a horse in the office sweepstake or their annual £1 flutter
The Cheltenham Festival has risen in popularity, the Derby dropped, but the Grand National has not lost ground. It came under attack for the fatalities suffered but no horse died yesterday as the the severity of the course has been modified.
It also produces human drama. This year was dominated by firsts: it was the first winner of Mouse Morris, the son of Olympic grandee Lord Killanin and brother of film producer Redmond (The Reader); 19 year old jockey Mullins’ first National race and first win for Ruler of the World. The quality of the race was spoiled by a loose horse crossing the others and a downpour handicapped the handicapped still further. Yet there was an exciting finish with Ruler of the World catching the fancied Samuri near the line. I switched over the Masters to consummate an excellent Saturday of sport