Ed and Francesca take on Balding role as ITV makes royal debut
Not for 20 years has someone other than Clare Balding anchored mainstream television coverage of Royal Ascot. On the meeting's opening day Ed Chamberlin and Francesca Cumani take on that responsibility as ITV becomes home to Flat racing's most famous fixture for the first time.
A major slump in Royal Ascot ratings played a big part in Channel 4 losing its racing contract to ITV, which will mirror its predecessor by showing live all 30 races across the festival's five afternoons.
All afternoon output, plus Saturday's edition of The Opening Show, will be on the main channel, with the morning programme airing at 10am on ITV4 over the first four days.
The broadcaster and the racecourse will have a keen eye on numbers as the week develops. Channel 4's total audience for the whole of last year's meeting was 2.7 million, hugely down on the BBC's final haul of 6.9m viewers when Balding took the helm for the corporation's Royal Ascot farewell prior to her joining Channel 4.
Chamberlin, who shares main host duties with Cumani during the Flat season, said: "It's a huge honour for both of us.
"We have all 30 races live on the main channel, which is great for us and racing, plus two of the biggest wire cams you'll ever see, one up the home straight and the other across the paddock and going right down into the Queen Anne enclosure and the bandstand."
Chamberlin added: "ITV presenters such as Susanna Reid, Piers Morgan, Phil Schofield and Holly Willoughby are all set to be at Royal Ascot this week. My holy grail is for them to then go on their own shows and say racing is a great sport and they loved Royal Ascot."
Ascot's global audience will be even bigger than usual, boosted particularly by the sports channel of America's principal broadcaster NBC offering four hours of daily coverage, hosted by Nick Luck.