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Top marks for ITV as lighter content appeals to wider audience

ITV anchorman Ed Chamberlin broadcasts from Aintree
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It seemed a long way removed from New Year's Day at Cheltenham in the pouring rain, when ITV covered live racing for the first time in 31 years.

Parasols were more the order of the day at Aintree and, just like the weather, the ITV Racing team is now starting to shine brightly after that wet start.

Yes, clouds did pass overhead with glitches during the four-hour plus coverage, but no more than expected with any outside broadcast.

It won't be long before Sir Anthony McCoy is adding another public accolade to his BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, such has been his progress as a presenter from stuttering 7lb claimer on that first day.

His Opening Show performance on ITV4 alongside his stooge Luke Harvey and Oli Bell set the tone for the day.

Much lighter and clearly aiming to attract the afternoon armchair viewer just as much as the punter, the tone could not have been more removed from the often highbrow Channel 4 approach.

There will be criticism from hardcore racing fans as races seemed to suddenly arrive without much live-time paddock coverage and pictures of the horses cantering to post.

Those critics have one easy solution – and that is to buy a Racing UK subscription and get the in-depth version.

ITV has picked up the best of Channel 4's camera work with the evocative overhead shots while also lovingly dwelling on some of the best equine action in the slow-motion cuts.

If those shots don't energise another generation of horseracing fans then nothing will, not even Matt Chapman and his man of the people act that had Ed Chamberlin predicting the betting expert would "spontaneously combust".

Some may argue the countless reruns of Politologue's trip after jumping the last at full stretch were unnecessary, but it brought another gem from McCoy.

"JP McManus always said Tommy Carberry always said that if you end up on your backside you are always wrong," said the ex-champion in his deadpan style that had been mixed with some growing cheeky jests.

Equally opinions will be divided about what seemed constant reminders of the equine welfare in place at Aintree. Yes, it was necessary for public relations but in the end it intruded and broke up the National narrative.

That this is the only churlish criticism speaks volumes for the programme, which should have gone around the world carrying an Olympic torch.

Racing and its crown jewels are in safe hands on this evidence.

Equally opinions will be divided about what seemed constant reminders of the equine welfare in place at Aintree
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