Holt gets lost on the Cross Country

Last December racing’s Commentator User Group (CUG) placed leading BBC commentator Jim McGrath on review for a six-month period, much to his astonishment.

At the time McGrath described his position as like being put on death row. He said, “I’ve been told that I’m under review for six months. They’re basically sending me to the gallows; they want me to sit on death row for six months. I feel it is a humiliation. Never at any stage has anyone from that panel approached me once with any complaint, and for that reason I’m very taken aback and very upset.”

The CUG, which brings together representatives from RaceTech, the Racecourse Association, Racing UK, Attheraces, SIS and TurfTV, awards contracts for just 12 months at a time. Brad Higgins, chief executive of RaceTech, explained why they regularly viewed the performance of all the racecourse callers. “It’s quite a competitive business,” he said, “and we get around 50 applications a year for the role of commentator. As has been reported, we intend to give opportunities to some new commentators in 2012.”

Hayley Moore, sister of former champion jockey Ryan Moore, won a competition last year to unearth a female race caller, and began her training in January. And the oleaginous (I’ve been waiting ages for an opportunity to use that word) Matt Chapman of Attheraces is one of three people to have already completed their studies and who will each have 15 meetings to cover before a decision on whether to offer them a contract is taken in July.

During this afternoon’s race it was Channel 4 presenter Simon Holt whose performance comes under scrutiny. There were four separate incidents Holt either missed altogether or muddled up. First, he took several jumps to realise that 100/30 race favourite Scotsirish was no longer in the race. Even then, Holt only noted that “we’ve lost Scotsirish on the way round”, despite the picture on Channel 4 clearly showing the horse had gone wrong and been quickly pulled up and dismounted by amateur jockey Mr P W Mullins.

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Shortly afterwards he referred to Sizing Australia as Sizing Europe, though he showed he had immediately realised his error by pointing out that the latter horse runs tomorrow.

In the grand scheme of things it probably didn’t amount to much to say that the field were approaching the Aintree fence, only to have to slip in that there was another one to jump before getting there. By this time, the well regarded 10/1 chance, former winner Garde Champetre had also long pulled up. But McGrath didn’t mention this until there were just two fences remaining.

Three times during the race he had reminded us of the problems encountered by Jacqui Coward and her mount Wedger Pardy when they took the wrong course after the final fence in December last year. In the process yesterday’s winner Balthazar King collided with the running rail and fell as Richard Johnson tried to steer onto the correct route.

On today’s showing it is Holt who has lost his way.

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7 replies
  1. Ian Macdonald says:

    The Jim McGrath put under review by the Commentator Review Group is Aussie Jim McGrath, racecourse commentator, BBC TV chief racing commentator and Daily Telegraph racing correspondent. Your story here is illustrated by a completely different Jim McGrath – the Channel 4 presenter and ex MD of Timeform.
    Whoops !!

  2. Matt Bisogno says:

    Thanks Ian – well spotted. Ian S has fully reprimanded and is now on his own twelve year probationary period..! 😉

    On a serious note, Ian S produces top drawer news copy, and like the rest of us is prone to an occasional oversight.

    All sorted now.

    Hope you’re keeping well,

  3. Alan Gooch says:

    I think the ‘death row’ placement of JM is affecting his performance. However, compared to some of the commentators of Irish races, he is absolute top quality.

    I get fed up watching the Irish racing and not knowing which horse has fallen or pulled up because the commentator completely ignores it. I have to work it it for myself most of the time.

    As for the snake oil salesman Chapman (oleaginous indeed), he’s a great presenter, but far too much like a poor man’s Tommo as a commentator – and don’t get me started on Tommo himself. He’s great at identifying the horses for you, but how many times in one race do we need to hear “let’s see how they get on at the next one”.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Who’s gonna get there?
      They’re in the air together.
      Any one of the three could win.
      He’s winning like an odds on favourite should.

      Yeah, you’ve got to love Thommo… Not!


  4. derek says:

    I thought it was Simon Holt who called the race. Must be going death as old age catches up with me.

  5. Larry says:

    How can someone write a big piece about someone’s inadequacies, when the actual piece is one big cock-up itself & then you just edit it & laugh it off, if Channel 4’s Jim McGrath then Simon Holt are so bad what does it say about Ian S

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Larry, With respect, what’s your problem?

      Ian made a mistake, and I didn’t laugh it off. I explained that he is excellent and made one mistake.

      My own opinion on Aussie Jim is that he’s terrible, legacy, and symptomatic of everything that’s wrong with racing’s public persona.


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