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Move over Ant and Dec: ITV's Ed Chamberlin thrilled by Breeders' Cup coverage

Breeders' Cup: "an amazing experience" for ITV Racing anchor Ed Chamberlin
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ITV Racing's Ed Chamberlin said he was blown away by the Breeders' Cup viewing figures on Saturday night, when the channel is normally the "sacrosanct" preserve of Ant and Dec.

Chamberlin was joined at Del Mar by colleagues Francesca Cumani, Johnny Murtagh and Luke Harvey for the two-day meeting, which featured on ITV4 on Friday and Saturday night before the Breeders' Cup Turf, won by Charlie Appleby raider Yibir, and the Classic muscled their way on to the broadcaster's main channel.

Those races, off at 11.40pm and 12.40am in Britain, yielded a peak viewing figure of 370,000 and an average of 222,000. The Saturday peak on ITV4 was 281,000 against 143,000 on Friday with average figures of 222,000 and 140,000.

The peak viewing figure on Derby day in June was 1.312 million with an average of 731,000, while Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe coverage in October peaked at 881,000 and averaged 456,000, although those races were in friendlier time slots.

Ed Chamberlin: presenter will be at Cheltenham this week

Speaking just after he had touched down at Heathrow on Monday, Chamberlin said: "The most satisfactory thing was bringing the Breeders' Cup to a terrestrial audience in the UK and that comprehensive coverage for the first time. I'm so grateful some 300,000 people stayed up until the early hours of Sunday morning to watch the Turf and more Charlie Appleby heroics.

"When I joined ITV I never thought horseracing would be on the channel on a Saturday night in a million years. Saturday night on ITV is sacrosanct. It's the holy grail, it's Ant and Dec time. It's an entertainment channel and Saturday night is the biggest few hours of the week and we showed horseracing, which is a bit surreal.

"I had no idea what we'd get and I certainly didn't think over 350,000 would be watching after midnight on Saturday; that's blown me away. I think it's a novelty as that comprehensive coverage hasn't been done before, but hopefully it shows ITV's commitment to the sport."

Chamberlin, who will front ITV's coverage of the Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham this week, praised the job done by host broadcaster NBC Sports, whose team included Nick Luck.

Yibir coming home in front in the Breeders' Cup Turf, which was shown on ITV's main channel

"I love the speed they go at and I always want to take the viewer on this rapid journey because no-one sits still these days and NBC move at such speed with their presenters," he added. "It just sweeps you along and that's right up my street, like being back on Soccer Saturday with Jeff Stelling.

"It was such an amazing experience. I think they appreciated the effort we'd made to be there and we were looked after like royalty. Drew Fleming and his [Breeders' Cup] team couldn't have done more. Every time we had a request, we got the same, 'We'll make it happen', which was so refreshing. We had a position by the paddock and the access we got was extraordinary. Everyone helped and NBC were so generous and welcomed us with open arms."

The lead presenter also hailed the efforts of senior production manager Tasleem Hasham-Laywood, who helped coordinate the ten-crew trip, which included a late new passport for Harvey.

Chamberlin said: "Getting out there was quite intimidating though. We had to get special visas. You were one bit of wrong paperwork away from not going given how strict they were. It was odds against we'd all get there, but somehow Tas got us there.

Modern Games: Friday night winner did not please everyone

"You had to fill out forms with everything from your mother's maiden name to what you got in your GCSEs! The attention to detail was unbelievable and then you turn up to the US embassy and there's machine guns and police everywhere. I was there for four hours having two interviews behind a screen of glass, like you see in a prison, so it's amazing Luke managed to get out there.

"People may ask why Luke went, but he was our cameraman and edited all the VTs and interviews we did. I think he's more talented with a camera than he was in the saddle and the Americans loved him. He was dressed like he was going to Cheltenham and I think he had proposals and all sorts."

Chamberlin also touched on the controversy on Friday when the Appleby-trained Modern Games was wrongly withdrawn from the Juvenile Turf only to be reinstated and win, although those on course were angered as he did not count for betting purposes.

"I've never experienced an atmosphere like it at a racecourse," said the 47-year-old. "It was virtually dark and it felt like the closest thing to when I used to present football and you'd be at St James' Park with all the anti-Mike Ashley protests and that toxic feeling in the stadium.

"It felt a bit like that with the anger and booing and I asked one of the local journalists about it on the media bus after and he said if it was an NFL game and the fans had lost their money like that, they'd have burned down Del Mar – that was the strength of feeling."

Read more:

Yibir takes Turf glory to cap remarkable Breeders' Cup for Appleby and Buick

Drama and confusion as Charlie Appleby wins Juvenile Turf after 'surreal' start

Watch: awesome Knicks Go thunders to Breeders' Cup Classic success

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It just sweeps you along and that's right up my street, like being back on Soccer Saturday with Jeff Stelling
E.W. Terms