Oli Bell happy and relieved as The Opening Show gets first outing

Sat 7 Jan 2017

Presenter Oli Bell expressed satisfaction with The Opening Show as ITV's new racing programme was broadcast live for the first time from Sandown Park on Saturday morning.

Televised on ITV4 at 10am, the hour-long magazine show's fundamental brief is to set the scene for each afternoon of racing.

Bell was joined by Luke Harvey and jockey Tom Scudamore as The Opening Show previewed the meetings at Sandown and Wincanton, from where ITV4 cameras broadcast seven live races.

Bell said: " Like anything, the longer you wait for it, the more the excitement and nerves come with it.

"Last night was brutal for me. I only got about an hour's sleep and I was tossing and turning thinking about every link.

"When you arrive, there is so much work that has gone on behind the scenes from ITV and that puts you at ease a bit.

"Your head is a bit frazzled after you come off air, but it felt like it had the makings of something decent that people will enjoy.

"I liked the fact we were slightly different in our form analysis. We had horses earlier on in their race as opposed to the last two furlongs.

"As a skeleton for what we want to do moving forward, I think as a starting point I am very happy with it."

The Opening Show has replaced Channel 4's long-running magazine show The Morning Line, and followed a similar format to its predecessor with previews interspersed by racing features - the first of which focussed upon rookie Irish trainer Joseph O'Brien.

There were also a feature on golfer and keen racing fan Lee Westwood, while Victoria Pendleton paid a visit to Andrew Balding's stables in Newbury.

Bell said: "Fundamentally, these people are hugely successful in their sport and to get them talking and engaged in racing can only be positive, in my opinion.

"I thought they were really informative and enjoyable. Scu (Scudamore) was fantastic and was on really good form.

"He was interesting to listen to and got what we were doing and hopefully that will extend through the weighing room."

Harvey fronted a 'Jargon Buster' segment, which was conceived with the intention to demystify some of the more complicated aspects about the sport.

The Opening Show panel also discussed some of the week's most talked-about racing topics during a newspaper round-up, which included an analysis on how minimum riding weights on the Flat have changed in recent years.

Matt Chapman was track-side at Sandown to issue going and betting updates, with weather forecaster Lucy Verasamy at the Esher circuit to provide an outlook for the day ahead.

Racing returned to ITV after a 32-year absence once Channel 4's tenure as the sole terrestrial broadcaster for the sport ended on December 27.

ITV Racing's first show was broadcast from Cheltenham on New Year's Day and was anchored from the famous winner's enclosure by lead presenter Ed Chamberlin.

Viewing figures on ITV peaked at 831,000, with an average audience of 676,000.

Racing coverage has now been moved from ITV to ITV4, where it will remain until the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Bell added:"Much like the New Year's Day programme, there are things that I would want to work on personally, but it was a relief to get it out the way as it has been a long time coming."

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