Racing: Channel 4 coverage safe until 2007

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The Independent Online

The future of live racing on Channel 4 is secure, for another 18 months at least.

A deal thrashed out yesterday between the broadcaster and a racing team led by the Tote means a new, year-long contract will be put in place in January with an option for another year.

Channel 4 had originally asked for £10m to offset the investment it puts into the sport. But it seems that £4.8m has been delivered, £3m from the Tote and the rest from racecourses covered by Channel 4 and perhaps the Levy Board.

The agreement means racing will continue to be screened terrestrially every Saturday and at the Festivals of Chester, York, Newmarket and Cheltenham. The number of televised days will go down from 85 to 74, with the days running up to the Doncaster St Leger thought to be the principal victims.

The Tote, which relies on Channel 4 as a vehicle for their Scoop6 and Jackpot pools, will become official sponsors of both Channel 4 Racing and The Morning Line. The main bookmaking firms walked away at an earlier stage of negotiations.

"Our feeling is that racing would have suffered tremendously if it had come off terrestrial as other sports have suffered, with perhaps boxing the prime example," Peter Jones, the Tote chairman, said.

"If you take a wider view, it's disappointing that the bookmakers aren't involved, but they have their own shareholders to think about. We weren't prepared to say that if they're not in then we're not in. We took a view that it was in our commerical interest to do the deal.

"The alternative would have been to just wave goodbye, and we would have been waving goodbye collectively to close to £50m. That was the stark choice."

David Scott, Channel 4's deputy chief executive, added: "This is great news for our many loyal viewers, who can continue to enjoy extensive free-to-air televised racing. We always wanted to keep racing on 4, but we had to find a way of eliminating the sizeable commercial downside of broadcasting the sport and this deal does just that."

l York's attendance record was broken on the second day of the Royal Ascot meeting yesterday, with just under 39,875 people going through the turnstiles, almost 4,000 more than on Tuesday. Today's crowd for Ladies Day is expected to be close to 50,000.

HYPERION'S TIPS FOR TODAY'S CARD AT WOLVERHAMPTON: 2.20 Bid For Fame 2.55 Surely Truly 3.30 Hellbent 4.05 Capt Darling 4.40 Farnborough 5.15 Shades Of Green