Fancy yourself as a budding TV presenter? From wardrobe dilemmas to clocking up the driving miles and keeping tabs on Twitter, Gina Harding tells H&H what it's like to front a show watched by 550,000 people
How did you get into TV presenting?
I grew up riding horses and after graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in languages, I applied to further my knowledge of the thoroughbred industry through the Darley Flying Start training programme. It is a two-year course, sponsored by Sheikh Mohammed, which incorporates training in all areas of the racing and breeding business working within the Darley operations in the UK, Ireland, USA, Australia and Dubai.
During the course, I decided I wanted to work in the media and when I graduated began working for At The Races initially in a dual marketing and presenting role before gaining enough experience to set up as a freelance broadcaster and starting with Channel 4 Racing.
What do you enjoy most about the job… and any bad parts?
I love the variety. One day you could be filming mares and foals at a stud farm and the next interviewing the winner of the Derby. The miles clocked up travelling around the country and constant time away from home can be tough at times.
What kind of planning goes into covering a raceday? Do you rehearse?
The nature of covering live sport means that there is very little opportunity to rehearse or plan too much. You have to be able to react on the spot to the action unfolding in front of you. The preparation that goes into a day largely involves making sure you are abreast of any relevant news or back stories involving certain horses or connections. Even then, you can guarantee that the big outsider you know least about will pop up and win!
Can you outline a typical day of filming?
A regular Saturday on Channel 4 will generally start early with The Morning Line show. After an overnight stay, I try to arrive on the racecourse at 6.30am to allow the hair and makeup department plenty of time to make me look human! I will have already made notes on the running order for the show the night before and researched whatever guests we have on the sofa that morning to save a bit of time.
For the afternoon show, we start with a production meeting at 10am to discuss the outline of that afternoon’s broadcast before starting pre-records at around 1pm to go live for 1.30pm.
Before the show I will keep tabs on any news coming through on Twitter in addition to speaking to the clerk of the course about the conditions for that afternoon. Once we go live, it is a case of making sure you are in the right place at the correct time to get the relevant interviews or news required.
How do you choose what to wear? How do you combine practicality with style?
It has taken me a while to hone the skill of dressing for any eventuality but I think filling my car with a variety of coats, thermal layers and different footwear has finally paid off!
Deciding what to wear takes up an unhealthy amount of my time not to mention my bank balance. It’s important to look smart but also practical for the variety of tasks required of a racing broadcaster.
I have had many epic fails on this front most notably when having to walk a mile across the Knavesmire at York alongside the long striding Brown Panther to interview his groom, wearing silver stilettos. I like to think I am learning from my mistakes though and the flats were definitely on for this year’s crossing!
How much research/homework do you do on the lead up to a meeting?
The nature of covering racing means you pretty much have to be watching racing and keeping up to date with the form every single day.
Your audience is so knowledgeable that you can’t get away with not being on the ball. In addition to that I would spend a few hours going through the form of a specific racecard the night before.
Can you summarise your typical working week?
I cover around 50 racedays a year for Channel 4 Racing so if we are working on a specific festival such as Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood or the Cheltenham Festival that will take up much of the week.
If not, a typical week would usually involve working for Channel 4 Racing on Saturday in addition to going out filming a feature at a trainer’s yard for example earlier in the week. I might do two days for At The Races either on the racecourse somewhere like Lingfield or in their studio in Milton Keynes.
Around those commitments I often host corporate race days and also work for Tattersalls producing video news reports of their major thoroughbred sales. I try to keep Sundays free and any other days off usually involve going to the gym, catching up on admin and stressing about what to wear at work!