A new era for the festival as ITV takes control for first time
ITV's racing editor on Monday predicted the broadcaster's "big event pedigree" will stand it in good stead when the sport's new television partner takes control of its first Cheltenham Festival.
A meeting once synonymous with BBC television became the centrepiece of Channel 4's coverage in 1995, but it switches sides again this week with ITV promising to give jumping's showpiece fixture the full kitchen sink treatment.
Across all four days The Opening Show will be aired on ITV4 between 9.30am and 11am, with Cheltenham moving to the main channel at 1pm for three and half hours, during which races one to five will be shown, called by Richard Hoiles. As was the case during the Channel 4 era, ITV's contract with Racecourse Media Group prevents it showing races six and seven, which are restricted to Racing UK.
"ITV goes into the festival with a pedigree of doing big events really well," said racing editor Richard Willoughby.
"I think so far it has been mission accomplished for us. This week I want us to build on that. Since starting on January 1 we've got the team up and running, with a nice rhythm to the programmes. I think we go into the festival in really good shape."
Sir Anthony McCoy will be positioned alongside host Ed Chamberlin on all four days, which Willoughby described as "a real coup", while Brian Gleeson, also previously employed by Channel 4, comes on board as an Irish expert.
Among the planned features is Tuesday's piece on the late John Thomas McNamara, while all week long viewers will see McCoy interviewing Martin Pipe at the former trainer's Pond House base.
Willoughby added: "We want to capture the atmosphere, colour and excitement of the festival. We want to have all the angles covered, before and after the races, and we'll have the right people in the right places to do that."