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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Subdued start for new CH4 teamHeadlines
Clare Balding

Channel 4's new-look racing team swings into action on New Year's Day - despite the best efforts of the British winter to put a dampener on proceedings.

While the high-profile meeting at Cheltenham has been abandoned due to a waterlogged track, there will still be live action from Musselburgh, who report no problems with the weather.

That will give racing's armchair viewers the chance to gauge the new presentation team, headed by Clare Balding, as Channel 4 will be the only terrestrial channel providing live coverage after BBC pulled out. She will now be at Nicky Henderson's stable in Lambourn to help fill in the programme which will be reduced by half an hour to two hours.

Balding, who was an integral part of the old BBC team, became a familiar figure with the general viewing public during the Olympics and Paralympics.

She said: "I can't wait to get started on presenting regular racing for Channel 4. Channel 4 has assembled a fabulous team and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

Graham Cunningham, a new face to mainstream television after working on Racing UK, said: "The canny John Francome has said a few people will be thinking they are lucky to be asked to be part of Channel 4's team for 2013 - he's dead right! What more can you ask than to be given a chance to cover some of the best racing on the planet in a team which is mad keen to keep every angle covered?

"Fans of the sport won't take second best and from January 1 we have to live up to those high expectations."

Jim McGrath was a stalwart of the old guard from the beginning and he is delighted to be part of the new team.

He said: "I've been lucky enough to have been a part of the Channel 4 Racing team since it was inaugurated in the mid-eighties. The contract between IMG, Channel 4 and Britain's racecourses which is about to kick in means all terrestrial coverage is now in our hands. This will brings new challenges, together with a responsibility to do our utmost for everyone involved in the sport and, also, all for its fans.

"It's a huge privilege for any commentator."

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