Hitting the headlines this morning is news that the Grand National 2016 start time is to be pushed back an hour to 5.15pm.
In bid to attract bigger TV audience, organisers have decided to move the time from it’s original 4.15pm slot in the hopes that with more people at home, viewing figures will increase from the peak figure of 8.9 million who watched as Leighton Aspell won the race for the second year in a row, this time on the Oliver Sherwood-trained Many Clouds.
While that figure was slightly up on the 2014 figures, Channel 4 Racing have, so far, been unable to match the 11m who watched in 2012, the last time it was on the BBC.
In the last 15 years, the start time has changed four times. From 3.45 back in 2000, it was pushed back to 4.10 in 2005, which subsequently became 4.15 for the race in 2006 and now, 10 years on, it will start at it’s latest time ever – 5.15pm.
In a statement Jockey Club Racecourses said: “Research has shown that the later time may maximise an even bigger domestic and global TV audience, which will make the race more accessible to watch live.
“It has also demonstrated that most people don’t currently know the start time is at 4.15, which has also been shown by research on most UK sports events.”
John Baker, the Jockey Club north west regional director, said: “This is a very positive move for the Crabbie’s Grand National and we’re excited about the possibility of showcasing the greatest chase in the world to a wider national and global audience.
“The Crabbie’s Grand National is in a great place and we’re already delighted to be Channel 4’s biggest audience of the year at 8.9 million viewers, which is a fantastic figure, but any increase is also good for the sport.
“We’re always keen to explore ways to grow and enhance this superb three-day festival and we believe that in collaboration with our broadcast partner, Channel 4, and with the backing of the BHA, this is another extremely positive step forward for the ‘People’s Race’.”
Of course that means there will be other significant alterations to the Grand National Day racing line-up as you simply can’t have an extra hour in the day without racing.
An additional race has been added to kick off the proceedings, a Grade 3 handicap hurdle which will open the card at 1.40. The order of the first three Grade 1 races of the day will remain unchanged from this year but the first race, the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, will now start at 2.20pm, 50 minutes later than in 2015. That will be followed by both the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase and the Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle.
The Listed handicap chase will still precede the Grand National and the conditional and amateur riders handicap hurdle will follow to close the card. However, the Listed mares’ bumper that previously ended the card on Grand National day, has been moved and will now be run as the final race on the Thursday.
Picture by: Jon Super / AP/Press Association Images