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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Luck takes a lead role on C4Headlines
Nick Luck

Channel 4 have announced the names that will present their new-look racing programme alongside Clare Balding.

Nick Luck will take on a role of key presenter, supporting Balding at the premier events from January 2013 onwards, which include the Cheltenham Festival, Derby, Grand National and Royal Ascot. Luck will also independently lead Channel 4 Racing's weekly Saturday afternoon programmes.

"I would like to thank Channel 4 and IMG for what is an incredibly exciting opportunity. Together, they have some fantastic and dynamic ideas to drive the sport forward and I very much look forward to being part of the new team," said Luck.

Balding and Luck will be joined by Alice Plunkett, Rishi Persad and Emma Spencer who will take on the roles of roving reporters. Simon Holt has been maintained as the commentator, supported by Richard Hoiles, while Jim McGrath will be joined by new recruits Graham Cunningham and Mick Fitzgerald for in-depth analysis. Tanya Stevenson will continue in her role from the betting ring.

Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4's Sports Editor, said: "Being the new home of horse racing is a real privilege and I'm delighted to announce this carefully selected team. I would like to thank all of the presenting team for their commitment and enthusiasm to Channel 4 and the racing coverage over the years."

The most high-profile absentee from the Channel 4 line-up is betting pundit John McCririck, and he told Press Association Sport: "Naturally I am devastated at being sacked after covering betting, first on ITV and then Channel 4, for 31 years. It had always been a dream to report from the racecourse betting jungles at Aintree and Ascot.

"According to Channel 4, I'm being sacked after audience research. Yes, I do antagonise people as reactions to being twice in the Celebrity Big Brother house and also on Coach Trip prove. Yet, as Clare Balding, a terrific choice to lead the new young team, said recently, I've become the face of racing alongside Frankie Dettori and now of course Clare herself.

"It is so sad that Channel 4 boss Jay Hunt and production chief Carl Hicks, both long-time BBC executives, have again gone down their well-worn path of ageism. Among the 13 slated to be on screen, only Jimbo McGrath is over 50.

"Without any consultation or being asked to change my presentation style, I was only told by Channel 4's Head Of Sport Jamie Aitchison half an hour before their press release.

"Racing continues to prosper and is a magnificent sport for all ages and classes of society. I trust those now in power, having shown their macho images as all new producers do by getting rid of their most well-known older performer, don't forget that racing appeals to all generations."

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