The Randox Health Grand National is ten minutes of sport that enthrals the nation and it takes 12 months of planning to put it on air. I’ve resented on television for 20 years now and can say without hesitation that Saturday was the biggest, most complicated and best, production I have ever been involved with.
Last year’s Grand National show has been nominated for a BAFTA – but I’d be lying if I didn’t say this one felt a lot better with another year’s experience under our belt.
We’ll come back to the TV bit firsrace itself. Wasn’ it brilliant to see all 38 horses and jockeys coming back safe and sound. Well done to all involved bot before, during and after the race for making it such a thrilling spectacle.
The Tiger winning by a whisker was just about the perfect result and in the process he made history – the first horse to complete the virtual and Grand National double in the space of 24 hours.
As much as love the Tiger, a real lion of a horse, the star of the show was undoubtedly Davy Russell. His interview with Alice Plunkett after the race was one of the best I’ve ever seen with a sportsman.
First there was the class touch in mentioning Pat Smullen who is in all our thoughts right now then the stories about his family and how they used to pick up the grass cuttings to jump as national fences. He oozed class and charisma.
Davy Russell: Stole the show on Saturday
Gordon Elliott’s CV is getting more and more remarkable.
After his first Grand National victory with Solver Birch he only had six winners during the whole of the next season. Now the great man has 37 Grade one winners, a Gold Cup, a second Grand National and an Irish National to his name.
Full marks to Aintree for another spectacular three days. Congratulations go out to John Baker and his team, to Grant Rolwley and Jessica Dalgliesh who put on a great show. This year they gave the meeting real gravitas with a spectacukar opening ceremony and a first day which just gets bigger and better. It has four Grade One races and is a real celebration of everything Liverpool has to offer.
The friendly welcome I get at Aintree is as good as anywhere in the country and if I had 10p for every selfie I did this week I’d be as wealthy as Michael O’Leary.
Onto the coverage. The reason I say it’s the best production I’vebeen involved in is largely down to its enormity – 57 cameras 150 live sound sources and a team of over 300 people. It’s a monster to present.
When I set out on this journey with ITV, in my very first meeting with my new bosses, I said I wanted to make people feel 16 again watching the Grand National. With the Champions’ music and the legendary Hugh McIlvanney voicing the opener I hope people were onside from the outset.
Horse racing is fortunate to have sports’ number one documentary maker Gabirel Clarke now involved and his feature on the race that never was in 1993 was a seven-minute masterpiece.
I’d like to mention Alice and Francesca Cumani before the race too. I’ve never seen it before but they managed to feature 21 horses in the paddock before the great race – which takes some doing. I said on air it’s the equivalent of trying to negotiate the M25 on a Friday night while talking about horses. It was a remarkable effort.
I fully accept our coverage is never going to be to everyone’s liking. Take the Social Stable. It’s imperative in this modern age when people comment through the likes of Facebook, Instragram and Twitter than we keep them engaged. Emmet Kennedy and Kevin Blake did a great job doing just that.
It was was great to see people getting involved with our racecard charades too – although the guy who jumped into a hedge as Hedgehunter is clearly as mad as Matt Chapman.
I accept everyone now wants their say – my twitter feed is full of people saying we need to see more horses, less horses, more betting, less betting, Ed was good, Ed was terrible.
As we try to broaden the sport’s popularity it’s impossible to keep everyone happy but Saturday was very close to the vision I had for the Grand National coverage when I was offered the ITV job early in 2016.
It’s a racecourse and an event that is in rude health and it’s a privilege to be involved.