Dum dum, der dum, der dum…. Fingers pound the keys like the field over the Melling Road. The hairs stand on end, the mouth dries. This is the ultimate. The stirring soundtrack to the most stirring day in the sporting calendar. Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s calls them in and the memories flood back even though I wasn’t there for most of them; Foinavon in ’67, Red Rum (most famously) in ’73, Esha Ness twenty years later and Lord Gyllene in ’97 are always the ones that resonate most. Witness the magnificent heroism of horse and jockey played out in every scene as the music continues to soar away supremely in the background.

I’ve been brought up with the Grand National. The history and the sense of drama and occasion have been instilled in me since I was a wee lad. It is probably my favourite day of the sporting year. The afternoon spent getting ready for it marked by tea and Lardy Cake, the pre-races and documentaries, the atmosphere and the Aintree crowd, the interviews with the nervous jockeys and owners. All respectfully, dutifully and superbly brought to you by the BBC.

In the days BC (Before Clare…) a gentleman by the name of Des Lynam was sports broadcasting’s national treasure. As a young man I yearned to be as cool as Des. As an older bloke, I think I still yearn to be as cool as Des. The consummate, unruffled pro with the mike, his stewardship of the build up, the big race and beyond helped make the day. He has been, by one or other, replaced by the peerless Ms Clare Balding. Balding’s equine background plus her outstanding presenting skills have seen her transported from the Beeb to Channel Four as a sub-plot to the episode that has seen this prestigious event transported from one channel to the other.

It’s been a bad year for the BBC, on and off the screen. The corporation’s other televised sport is slowly being pulled from underneath them like the carpet from the marquee as they stand around, lingering like disbelieving, capernoited Wedding guests. It’s not so much that the televised events are disappearing, their outstanding coverage of the Olympics last summer notwithstanding, it’s becoming apparent that the standard of their presentation of these events is declining too. Last week’s bloated horror show coverage of The Boat Race being a prime example of this. But the BBC always, always did the Grand National. And they’ve always done it very, very well.

Channel Four now steps up to the plate. With their experience of decades worth of coverage of racing I’m confident they’ll do a job. But as the nation settles down to the sweepstake later, then the scones and tea, before getting ready to watch the unsurpassable drama of the four miles and three and a bit furlongs unfold something will be missing this year. Something that helps make this magnificent occasion.

Dum dum, der dum, der dum….

BBC, thank you. Channel Four, you are under starter’s orders.

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