THERE were two big winners at Aintree yesterday.
One was 100-1 shot Mon Mome, ridden by the near toothless Liam Treadwell.
The other was BBC Sport presenter Clare Balding.
Fronting the Grand National coverage, Clare proved once again just what a superb broadcaster she is.
Totally at ease in the middle of the frantic racing action – her home turf.
Able to find, recognise and talk to dozens of characters around the racecourse, with an instant recall of facts about them.
She interviewed Mon Mome’s trainer Venetia Williams as the horses prepared to leave the parade ring.
And got full value from both her and all the connections in the middle of the post-race celebrations.
With top class coverage of the afternoon provided for the BBC by independent production company Sunset+Vine.
Of course some will say Clare, 38, should be at home on a racecourse.
Her father Ian Balding trained the legendary Mill Reef, who won the Epsom Derby some six months after Clare was born.
Her brother Andrew trained the winner of the Epsom Oaks in 2003, leading to a memorable post-race interview with his sister.
And she is a former champion amateur jockey.
But it takes a lot more than just a racing background to rise to the ranks of an award-winning presenter.
Clare is a great broadcaster when she’s in the thick of the horse racing action.
Giving us the benefit of her knowledge and contacts.
She can also translate those skills into other areas.
Such as her work as a presenter at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing, Athens and Sydney.
Plus a range of other TV jobs – along with work for both Radio 5 and Radio 4.
She will also, I expect, be a regular visitor to Salford when BBC Sport moves there in 2011.
You may be looking for the point of this little eulogy.
Well, here it is.
Many people resent having to pay the BBC licence fee.
Which I find very short-sighted.
You’d miss it if it wasn’t there.
And presenters like Clare Balding make it worth every single penny.
Update: Some viewers were upset by Clare’s post race interview when she asked winning jockey Liam to show his gapped teeth. As commented on below, I took it as a joke between two friends. A BBC spokesman said: “It was intended as a light-hearted comment. Clare has apologised directly to Liam.”
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