Q & A: ITV Racing presenter Ed Chamberlin
Ed Chamberlin is the frontman of ITV’s racing coverage, having joined the broadcaster early in 2017 following a 16-year period presenting football for Sky Sports.
Racing has always been the 44-year-old’s leading passion, with Chamberlin previously spending some time in Newmarket back in the mid-90s studying racecourse management.
He now returns to Headquarters on a regular basis for work and spoke to Liam Apicella about ITV’s plans for 2018, Guineas contenders and colleague Oli Bell’s telling off from The Queen!
RA: ITV has screened racing for little over a year now, how has it gone so far?
EC: “I am surrounded by a terrific team, both in front of and behind the camera.It was a rocky start with the monsoon and Cheltenham and poor old Many Clouds and then we had that roasting hot day on Grand National day so we did not get the figures we wanted for that.
“But overall the viewing figures for the year were very good and so far in 2018 we are 18 per cent up on last year, which is fantastic. ITV4 is going well and the main channel has been good from day one.
“We are at the early stages of what we hope is going to be a very long journey.”
RA: Can the viewers expect to see any changes to the coverage in 2018 or is it a case of if it isn’t broke don’t fix it?
EC: We are always trying to be different. That is something I learned from Gary Neville (at Sky Sports) - you never stand still for a second. That is the Manchester United ethos under Sir Alex Ferguson, you are always looking to improve.
“When they won the league, they went again. We have not won any leagues by any means, but from a good start we are always trying to come up with new ideas.
“For Cheltenham we implemented plenty of new features, likewise Aintree and we have also been looking towards the flat for a long time - Royal Ascot, Guineas - that sort of thing.
“We are always looking to stay ahead of the game, there is absolutely no chance we will be standing still.”
RA: What comes to mind when you think of Newmarket?
EC: “History - it is a very special place like nowhere else on earth.
“Where else does everyone stop to let horses cross the road? The horse is very much the boss in Newmarket which I absolutely love.
“We are really looking to tap in to that history this year. During the off-season we have done a lot of filming at the museum because it is very important to look back at the history of races, keep the people informed.
“You will see that filming throughout the summer. When you see the name of a famous horse race at Newmarket, whoever it may be, hopefully now we will be able to explain why it is called that and give people that little bit of history.
“That is the biggest card we have to play in our sport. In this country, these are the races with plenty of prestige and history and these are still the ones everyone wants to win. Newmarket is the home of all of that with the flat.”
RA: How does it compare working from Newmarket to other courses around the country?
EC: “It is very different. Another word I would associate with Newmarket is space, there are massive amounts of space. It is enormous.
“We made a promise on ITV Sport to bring people closer to the action and we have a great spot at Newmarket and we thank the authorities for that. We are right by the winners’ enclosure, right where the big names watch the races. It is quite a buzz.
“The biggest contrast I could make is between Newmarket and Epsom. I really enjoyed the Oaks and the Derby because they were intense. Epsom is like a cauldron with people on each side of the track.
“Newmarket is completely different - it’s big, it’s airy. There is lots of wide open space and at the end of the day it is the home of the race horse, which makes it very, very special.
“Both tracks are different at Newmarket as well. The Rowley Mile is very different to the July Course.”
RA: And the best meeting to cover?
EC: “I love the fact we have brought the Craven back on to TV. That is a great way to start the year.
“I will pretty much go straight from Aintree to Newmarket. What a contrast that will be, going from the Grand National to the Craven.
“It goes to show ITV’s commitment to the sport that they have put the Craven back on TV. I love the fact it is new and fresh, but not much beats Guineas weekend. That is when the stakes are high and I love that in any sport.
“I used to love that when covering football, the really big games. The buzz you get on Guineas day, there is so much at stake. That creates a real intensity.
“I also love the July meeting, it is something completely different. You talk about the intensity of Guineas weekend, the July meeting is very relaxed and calm.
“It is like garden party meets racing and it is a lovely atmosphere. It is different to the Guineas, but equally as exciting and that sums up racing - every week and every meeting is different.”
RA: Did any of last year’s two-year-olds stand out with The Guineas in mind?
EC: “There is one that stands out and that is Clemmie. I remember saying to Aidan O’Brien before she won the Cheveley Park that if she goes on to win this she has to be a certainty for the Guineas and he just smiled. Lo and behold she won.
“I think she is nailed on to win the 1,000 Guineas. She has got speed and should get even better over a mile with the way she is bred. She is going to be a superstar and is going to be very, very hard to beat.
“I went over to the Dublin Racing Festival in January and I was lucky enough to have lunch at Ballydoyle with Aidan and it sounds like she is in good nick.”
RA: Enable was perhaps the star of 2017. How does she and John Gosden go about surpassing those achievements?
EC: “She is a godsend for ITV. When we set out on the journey with ITV you always want a superstar - racing has to have them. We needed a horse for the audience to latch on to and how lucky were we to have Enable? She got such a following and I rightly so.
“Oaks day was one of my favourites last year because it had everything. You had the O’Brien horses arriving late, you had Olivier Peslier bailing out at the start and the electrical storm.
“We lost cameras and all sorts of things. And then Enable whipped up a storm herself in the Oaks and she just got better and better from there. She was the horse we dreamed of.
“Her following was massive, all the way through to the The Arc on ITV. We put that back on screens and to have her in it I am sure did the viewing figures no harm.
“She is owned by Juddmonte and with Douglas Erskine Crum and Lord Grimthorpe at the helm it means you get incredible access to her.
“They want people to enjoy her, just like they did with Frankel.
“Her popularity is going to grow and grow and it is lovely to have a horse everyone knows. My kids have heard of Enable, the people on the High Street have heard of her, which is wonderful the sport.
“I hope she can carry that on this year, but where it could be different is the competition. In television you want head to heads. I think we might get the stable head to head, Enable versus Cracksman, but the dream for me is Enable versus Winx.
“That is one that will transcend the sport, get racing on front pages and back pages everywhere. Imagine the talk if Winx and Enable go head to head, that would be very special and one of the biggest contests for a while.
RA: What else are you looking forward to seeing this year?
EC: “It’s the sprinters who were so exciting last year. There was a real good crop and the Commonwealth Cup has changed the dynamic with sprinting because that was always going to throw up a really good three-year-old and the narrative follows on from that to a big smash up in the July Cup or whatever it might be. I love that narrative.
“There is a really good group of established sprinters and who knows which three-year-old is going to spring out and shoot up the sprinting ranks.
“The sprinting division is one I am really excited about again because that had a few flat years it is fair to say, but it burst back into life last year.
“Then you have the older horses coming back, the likes of Big Orange. There is lots there that will hopefully entice race-goers and ITV viewers for the whole of the flat season.”
RA: Especially if your colleague Oli Bell goes chasing after Big Orange again...
EC: “Hopefully he will keep himself in check this year after Her Majesty had a quiet word! In all seriousness, we were very lucky with the finishes we had last year, including that one in the Gold Cup.
“The Nunthorpe also stands out with Frankie Dettori. The Eclipse was a thriller and hopefully we get plenty more this year. I dread to think what Oli will do if Big Orange retains his title at Royal Ascot, that would be quite something.”