There’s definitely something lacking this week at Cheltenham. The horses, trainers, jockeys and owners are all here, the racing is great, the crowds are cheering, the same lady is on duty in the members’ loos as has been for the last century. What’s missing is Festival Radio.
Sure, it still exists. But instead of the rambling chaos orchestrated by Luke Harvey, a highly professional (boring) team of form experts endlessly discuss what’s going to win and where punters should put their money.
That’s not the point of Festival Radio. In the old days, it was compelling listening on the way to and from the track. The cult figure of Paul Binfield — who can forget his outrageously dreadful interview with Francois Doumen — was the roving reporter, while jockey Tom Scudamore hosted the “drivetime” show in the evening. All sorts of minor racing figures dropped in to have a chat with Tom, and it was an entertaining mix of wandering drivel and banter.
Now “powered by Timeform” — Timeform is now owned by Betfair, hence the total devotion to betting discussions — it has lost all its appeal. If we wanted professionalism, we’d tune into BBC Gloucester. We want funny faux pas, stories about which jockey got tiddly in the local pub last night, eye-wateringly inappropriate interviews and Luke reminding us all (every day) that he did, in fact, ride a Festival winner himself (Taberna Lord in the 1987 Pertemps Final, in case you didn’t know).
Bring back Binners and Harvey!
PS: The score is now Irish jockeys 17, British jockeys 2. Both British winners were ridden by amateurs (Will Biddick and Sam Waley-Cohen) — no British pro has managed it yet.