TV racing frontman gears up for return to action


London (AFP)

Racing presenter Ed Chamberlin will switch his microphone on in his spare room on Friday to launch three days of racing coverage as the sport edges back towards normality.

Chamberlin is fronting ITV Racing's coverage of three days of the sport behind closed doors, including the first two Classics of the flat season at Newmarket -- the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas.

He admits he will feel a mix of nervousness and excitement as he tries to strike the right chord after the coronavirus-enforced suspension of action.

Racing in Britain was suspended in mid-March before returning at Newcastle, in northern England, on Monday.

"It is historic and a real challenge," Chamberlin told AFP. "There is a job to be done, a balance to be struck with an understanding and sensitivity at what has happened.

"There will be people watching who have suffered, people who have lost loved ones through these horrendous months.

"We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and have to be sensitive to get the tone right."

Chamberlin, 46, says his sleep has been disrupted as he comes to terms with the "huge responsibility" of returning to the screen.

"People will understand if there are a few glitches -- there will be some nervous moments," he said.

"My legs can be going at 100 miles an hour under the desk but I will be calm above it."

Chamberlin's love of racing kept him going through nine weeks of chemotherapy when, aged just 34, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

So the gratitude expressed towards Britain's healthcare workers has an extra resonance for him.

- 'Thrill of racing' -

Chamberlin, who moved from presenting Sky Sports' Premier League coverage to fronting ITV Racing in 2017, believes the sport has a unique opportunity to attract new fans.

This is despite negative publicity around the Cheltenham Festival, which went ahead in March with 250,000 spectators, just before the shutdown.

"Cheltenham got unfair criticism, it garnered bad PR through no fault of its own," he said. "We were following government protocols.

"Cheltenham was made a scapegoat and it is sad as racing was a national treasure a while ago. It was picked out when there were concerts and other sports events being held."

Chamberlin believes the series of top racing events coming up could prove a turning point for the sport, especially with Premier League football on hold until June 17. "It is a gilt-edged opportunity for our sport," he said. "(Racehorse owner) Steve Parkin put it best -- 'This is the best opportunity to sell the thrill of racing in a lifetime'."

Chamberlin says there is an outside chance he and his team will be on site at Royal Ascot, which begins on June 16.

But before then he has to adapt to his new studio.

He has had to sacrifice his personally signed Southampton shirt for an ITV Racing backdrop and a photograph of his horse, Lord Rapscallion, winning in Ireland in 2018.

Chamberlin is crossing his fingers that his two children do not wander in unannounced while he is on air.

"Don't rule it out," he said. "We had an unsuccessful discussion about getting a red light and having it outside the spare room.

"I am so spoilt on ITV. I have a make up artist, stylist and runners to get me tea.

"So I might hire my son and pay him below the minimum wage."