Leading trainers Noel Meade and Ger Lyons have called for patience and urged racing fans not to view the new-look Racing TV too harshly following the channel’s opening broadcast of Irish racing on New Year’s Day.
RTV, the new home of Irish racing, showed Fairyhouse and Tramore as well as four meetings in Britain, which meant a lot of the Irish action was shown on a split screen and the start of some races missed completely.
That was inevitable given the busy schedule, according to Lyons and Meade, who believe only in the fullness of time can the move from At The Races to RTV be properly dissected.
Lyons said: “I watched it all and it was like being in a betting shop as there was too much racing on, but I wouldn’t be in a rush to criticise at such an early juncture.
“Racing TV were very professional and time will tell. It’s like everything, people don’t like change, but cleverer people than me have gotten us into this and only time will tell who was right and who was wrong. Give it a chance and let’s see how it shapes up.”
Reaction on social media was far less diplomatic, as may have been expected, and there was disgruntlement about full race replays not being available to non-subscribers, as had been the case with ATR.
However, RMG’s director of PR Seb Vance said on Wednesday: “Full race replays will be free to view in the very near future.”
Noel Meade: “Everybody knew yesterday was going to be tricky because of the amount of racing that was on and I thought they did a fair job in the circumstances”
Forty races were broadcast in little more than four hours on RTV on New Year’s Day, at an average of a race roughly every six minutes.
Meade said: “Everybody knew yesterday was going to be tricky because of the amount of racing and I thought they did a fair job in the circumstances.
“I didn’t see too much of it because I was racing, but you have to give them a chance. They didn’t do a bad job to send two presenters to the two different tracks. There might not have been time to talk to them, but at least they were there.”
Fairyhouse manager Peter Roe echoed the views of Lyons and Meade, and said: “We were the product and we weren’t watching but all I’d say is the on-site presence and professionalism of Racing TV went down well and the pictures were great.
“I think it’s very unfair to comment at this stage but in terms of pictures and everything else it was very positive.
“We should give them the month of January before we comment. It’s the dawn of a new era, exciting times. Yesterday was always going to be tricky and you have to look at the change in a positive light.”
As well as the two Irish meetings receiving less airtime, the sheer volume of racing on New Year’s Day prevented the action in Britain getting the level of pre- and post-race assessment viewers had come to expect on RTV’s predecessor Racing UK.
However, RTV’s lead presenter Nick Luck, who watched the action – including the newly launched Sky Sports Racing – pointed to the rare circumstances in the scheduling.
“It was probably the most challenging day in terms of production logistics of the entire year and it was the first day Irish racing had been on the channel too – to pull all that off with no technical issues is a feat in itself,” he said.
“Self evidently that allows less scope for the sort of in-depth editorial Racing TV subscribers have come to expect, but it’s a rarity rather than the norm.
“It’s going to be of huge benefit to the channel to have Irish racing as well as UK racing, and it will provide a benefit to punters on both sides of the Irish Sea as well, I’m sure.”
With ITV revealing an increase in year-on-year viewing figures for its New Year’s Day show to an average of 759,000, up from 723,000 in 2018, Luck believes racing fans have rarely been better served in terms of coverage of the sport.
“It’s a massive step forward for the sport for both channels to be in HD and I really like the instant round-up programme after racing on Racing TV,” he added.
“If you look at racing in the round, racing viewers are incredibly well served at the moment.
“There has been significant channel evolution in the last five or six years, and with that there’s always going to be some disgruntlement, but overall the horseracing viewer is extremely comprehensively served.”
>> Tom Kerr, the Racing Post’s new editor, will be appearing as a guest on Luck On Sunday on RTV this weekend
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com