For one weekend every April, gambling ceases to be the pastime of grimy old men smoking outside betting shops and becomes a national obsession, with millions of pounds staked on the four mile race at Aintree.
But from next year, the most famous race of the year will be going to Channel 4 in a four year deal between the channel and Racecourse Media Group, which will deliver around 90 days a year of horse racing.
C4 will also take over rights to other famous races including the Derby and attendant races from Epsom, as well as Royal Ascot, to add to the other prestigious meetings already shown on C4, at Cheltenham, Newbury, York, Chester and Goodwood.
In a statement, Channel 4 said: “Over the next four years, Channel 4 will use its distinctive approach to marketing and promotion to bring the sport to committed racing fans and strengthen its relationship with younger and broader audiences alike. Channel 4 will seek to introduce a new innovations and enhancements to the production values of its racing programming over the course of the new rights period.”
Apparently the BBC put in as “competitive a bid as possible” to maintain the rights and BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said: “We are of course disappointed that we have lost the rights, but we are pleased that all the races in the contract remain free to air.”
Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4 sports editor, said: “This is an opportunity for us to work together to grow the sport, painting the full picture of both the flat and jumps seasons to attract new viewers whilst rewarding those loyal viewers we value so highly.”