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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Presenter Kemp saves the day with last-minute commentary in absence of Hunt

Anthony Kemp had a tough race to call after being forced into the commentary box
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Talk about a baptism of fire.

Kempton raceday presenter Anthony Kemp could hardly have had a tougher race to call when the microphone was thrust into his hands on Tuesday night just before the off after it became apparent that designated commentator John Hunt was not in his box for the first race due to a diary mix-up.

This was not exactly Cracksman versus Enable, or a race in which many of us would at least be familiar with the colours. This was a 12-runner nursery for horses rated 60 or lower – little known two-year-olds who are not even household names in their own households.

What's more, it produced a blanket finish, typical of so many low-grade affairs on the all-weather, and one in which the winner, Sauchiehall Street, came from such an unpromising position that he traded at Betfair's ceiling odds in running, while the fourth traded as low as 1-33.

Fortunately, while Kemp's voice had not been heard before in a racecourse commentating role – a position he had once coveted as a youngster – he had a wealth of experience to call upon.

Kemp said on Wednesday: "I was in the broadcast booth as usual and when I went to hand over to John in the commentator's box there was an uncomfortable silence. We radioed up there to see what the problem was and it quickly became apparent John wasn't there.

"I had no choice but to do it myself and I took over from the broadcast booth, watching the same closed-circuit feed on a TV monitor as the rest of the course. There was no time for nerves – I just got on with it."

It should come as no surprise Kemp did a first-class job, as he has worked in racing all his life and is also a keen amateur dramatist, so a confident performer.

You can hear the closing stages of Anthony Kemp's call on the nursery at Kempton here.

He added: "Although the circumstances were a bit different, it wasn't my first commentary. After spending about 16 years as a race-reader for Raceform I did broadcast work for Ladbrokes and Racing UK and was one of the first broadcasters taken on by TurfTV, where occasionally I'd find myself required to commentate at the last minute on some obscure American claiming race.

"I did the first three races while John was being tracked down after mixing up his diary, and then he slid into the role as calm as can be as if nothing had happened. It was good fun while it lasted, but I felt really sorry for him. After all, we've all done it." 

John Hunt rushed to Kempton after mixing up the date

Hunt is recognised as among the best in the business. He was top of ITV's 'most wanted' list when they took over terrestrial coverage from Channel 4 but could not be lured, preferring to stick with the diversity offered by the BBC on Radio 5 Live, for whom he also commentates on swimming and football.

He explained on Wednesday: "The date was in my diary, but a couple of weeks ago I got a new iPhone and transferred all my commitments into that. Somehow that one slipped through, and the first I knew was when I got a call from RaceTech after I'd come in from a run. I've been commentating 25 years and it had never happened before.

"I don't live too far away so jumped into the car, unshaven and scruffy, and made it to Kempton as quickly as I could, only just missing race three."

He added: "I feel particularly bad about letting down the team at RaceTech, who handle the commentators' rota beautifully. They've strong systems in place and this mistake was 100 per cent mine.

"Everyone's been great about it and you can be sure I'll be looking after Anthony with a nice bottle of wine or two at Christmas time."

Kempton 5.45 result and analysis

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I had no choice but to do it myself, watching the same closed-circuit feed on a TV monitor as the rest of the course. There was no time for nerves

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