Francome still on top

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The racegoers may be freezing on the terraces at Lingfield this afternoon, but there will surely be a warm glow emerging from the commentary position of Channel 4 television. Having been widely praised by the betting industry for taking the view that even all-weather racing is better than no racing at all, Channel 4's team has also received an overwhelming vote of confidence from the people who really matter to them, the armchair punters of Britain.

In a postal poll of Sporting Life readers, the commercial station's racing coverage was preferred to that offered by the BBC by a majority of more than three to one, though it should be pointed out that satellite stations (Sky's excellent Winning Post covering evening meetings in the summer, and the dedicated Racing Channel) were not included. A total of 974 Life readers responded, an impressive sample given that each and every one is likely to be a committed follower of racing. Channel 4's coverage was preferred by 76.5 per cent of respondents, while only 21 per cent opted for the BBC and 2.5 per cent did not express a preference.

When the poll turned to individuals, one name was clear of the field, much as he was during his career on the track. John Francome came top of a list of 19 racing presenters, with a maximum rating of nine from 343 voters, and a zero rating from just eight. The Life's points system gave him an overall score of 83 per cent, eight per cent clear of Alastair Down, his Channel 4 colleague and also a familar name to Life readers. J A McGrath, heir-apparent to Peter O'Sullevan as the BBC's chief commentator, was Auntie's leading scorer in joint-third, a position he shared with two more members of the Channel 4 team, Simon Holt and Jim McGrath.

At the other end of the table, BBC presenters filled the bottom four places, while there was also evidence that a common complaint about Channel 4's John McCririck - "he's irritating but the punters love him" - is only half right (the first half, to be precise). Although 236 voters scored McCririck highly, 147 gave him no points at all, and in the popularity poll he was down the field in 13th place.


Ranking % of maximum


1 John Francome (C4) 83

2 Alastair Down (C4) 75

3= Simon Holt (C4) 74

3= J A McGrath (BBC) 74

3= Jim McGrath (C4) 74

6 Peter O'Sullevan (BBC) 73

7 Graham Goode (C4) 72

8 Brough Scott (C4) 68

9 Jonathan Powell (BBC) 60

10= Lesley Graham (C4) 58

10= Lord Oaksey (C4) 58

12 Clare Balding (BBC) 57

13= John McCririck (C4) 56

13= Julian Wilson (BBC) 56

15 Derek Thompson (C4) 55

16 Richard Pitman (BBC) 54

17 Peter Scudamore (BBC) 49

18 Jimmy Lindley (BBC) 47

19 Graham Rock (BBC) 44

Survey conducted among 974 respondents by The Sporting Life