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It really was a grand National

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Carl Hicks Carl Hicks | 16:28 UK time, Monday, 16 April 2007

Let me start by saying how pleased I am with the response we’ve had to our coverage of Saturday’s Grand National. The weather was brilliant and it was matched by one of the closest and most exciting finishes in years. Here are the thoughts of a couple of you who were kind enough to write in:

“Just to say your coverage of the Grand National 2007 was superb. Top marks to you all for putting on a great programme.” - Paul Coote, UK

“Great show Clare and Sue, especially that Ginger McCain interview - colourful or what! Anyway, keep up the brill presenting!” – Kevin, UK

The delay in the start to the big race meant we had to rattle though our post-race interviews and the re-run slightly quicker than I’d have liked, but all-in-all I was very pleased with how the day went. Sadly there was no way we could extend the coverage as we had to be off-air at 5.10pm because of the live FA Cup semi-final which followed us!

I think those problems at the start also really added to the drama. You’ve got 40 jockeys and 40 horses all keyed-up and ready to go, so it’s not the easiest of things to get all of them in a row. Afterwards AP McCoy admitted that the jockeys can be stubborn. They don’t like to give-up a good starting position by having to turn around and line-up again. The race may be four-and-a-half miles long but you can’t underestimate how much emphasis the riders put on getting to that first fence ahead of the rest!

The 40 riders approach the first fence on SaturdayThe audience we had was 7.6m viewers despite the fact the weather was so good. We also had a 66.5% audience share, meaning that two in three people who were watching television were watching our coverage. I think the figures were helped by the race being at 4.15pm. We moved it to that time two years ago as the day of the race coincided with Prince Charles’ marriage to the Duchess of Cornwall. Personally I’d like the race to be run around 5pm as I think even more people would watch.

I thought Clare Balding and Sue Barker did a great job in taking viewers through the whole day. Clare’s excellence as a racing presenter is undeniable and Sue really added a sense of occasion, as she does in all the big events she covers. I’d also like to mention Brian Gleeson - who handled the pre and post-race interviews in the absence of Rishi Persad, who’s currently covering the Cricket World Cup. I think Brian did a fine job and his rapport with the jockeys and trainers was clear to see.

I’d also like to mention the four-man commentary team, who were led by Jim McGrath for the 10th time. He was joined by Ian Bartlett, Tony O’Hehir and Darren Owen and the quartet called a really excellent race, and I really think they conveyed the excitement of the day.

We’ve also had a lot of emails asking us about the People’s Race, such as this one:

“I heard no mention about next year’s People’s Race, and how to enter. Can you supply any details?” – Chris Moulton, England

Well, it’s not been decided whether there will be another race next year but for more details you can visit the official race website.

I do think the People’s Race provided us with something different. It certainly added drama and impetus to the whole afternoon. For those of you who aren’t aware, hot favourite Instructor unseated his rider Michael Sweeney at the start, and the nine furlong flat race was eventually won by Kevin Old from Bournemouth on Hoo La Baloo.

Finally, given that the weather has been so hot, I feel Clerk of the Course Andrew Tulloch did a remarkable job in preparing Aintree. Some horses prefer extremes of ground – either firm or soft – and I thought he produced a course that was fair to all the runners. Of course Graphic Approach was injured and second-placed McKelvey damaged a tendon, but thankfully all the other horses were okay in what is the most testing race of all.

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