'We'll bring the magic to you' – ITV Racing's Ed Chamberlin on a Cheltenham Festival like no other
ITV Racing’s main man Ed Chamberlin has promised to bring the magic of Cheltenham into your home this Festival.
For hundreds of thousands of punters, the greatest show on turf will be a far cry from the normal Guinness-fuelled, hectic week at Prestbury Park.
But with AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh and the rest of the gang in tow, Chamberlin is sure months of planning will come good come show time, even if he admits he is feeling the pressure.
He said: “There’s always pressure on these events and big productions, but this time it’s even bigger.
“I think we feel a massive responsibility, for a number of reasons.
“One, the difficulties the sport has had over the last week or so. Two, because it’s four days that mean so much to a hell of a lot of people and hardly anyone can be there this year.
“They’re all watching at home and we’ve got to try and bring the magic of the track and what should still be a spectacular week, to people’s living rooms.”
With each winner set to be greeted by a near silence bar the odd clap, how do you go about replicating the 70,000 strong crowd?
ITV’s headquarters remain shut, production staff will work from home and numbers are strictly limited on track. It’s taken a lot of planning.
Chamberlin explained: “We’ve been busy for months and at least we’ve known for a while that it was going to be behind closed doors.
“We were able to start looking at the way we were going to do things, but it still remains a big, big challenge.
“People have lost relatives, lost jobs, it’s been desperate; and to think the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup winner are going to come back to silence is really sad.
“But we’ll try not to dwell on that.
“We’ve been working closely with Cheltenham and hopefully it’ll look really well drawn up.
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“The course will look cleverley dressed, a bit like they did with football grounds. We’ve got new cameras in to adapt to the no crowds.
“We’ll try our best to get in a roar as the Supreme goes off.
“Normally we’d have the huge wire-cam over the paddock which we brought in but we’ve changed that to a spider cam this time. That goes up and down and we can focus on the areas we want to, rather than the empty vast space.
“We’ve done a lot of site visits to make sure we can try and get the best out of Cheltenham with it being empty.”
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It’s not just the pandemic that has had the sport feeling sorry for itself, the Gordon Elliott picture was another huge blow.
And with the leak coming just two weeks before the Festival, the timing couldn’t have been much worse.
But Chamberlin is keen to allow the sport to write a new script over these coming days.
He said: “We can’t spin what happened any other way and we can’t ignore it, as it was just so damaging to the sport.
“Our focus for the week will be focusing on the best things about the sport, the love of the horse, the stable staff. But also I’m very hopeful we’ll get the stories that make this sport so special and spectacular.
“Just imagine if Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle win the Champion Hurdle, or if Goshen. Rather than AP McCoy with an arm around Jamie Moore crying, let’s hope he can give him a fist bump if he’s allowed to.
“Then you’ve got Paisley Park, Bryony Frost in the Gold Cup. There are so many great stories that can hopefully happen this week to put racing on the back and front pages for the right reasons.
“On the track, for all the sadness that's been going on off it the last few weeks, I think it’s shaping up to be an epic Festival. Just look at the Arkle for example. Look at the Gold Cup, with Champ in there.
“There’s so much to get excited about. I’ve been really sad over the last week, but now I’m suddenly really looking forward to it and it’s suddenly dawned on me how many brilliant races we’ve got ahead of us.
“Sport writes its own scripts, so hopefully it’s got some good ones up its sleeve this week.”
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