John Hunt - The Perfect Radio Commentator

I have just had my first Saturday at home since January 9th and looking at my diary I will not have another one until July 17th .

It isn’t a desertion of racing that led me to be at home but after a week “commuting” to Cheltenham I was yearning for a lie-in and some proper food.

I even had a desire to eat some fruit and veg, which may not sound unusual except I view vegetables in almost the same way a vegan views a perfectly cooked fillet steak. Never mind five-a-day I am lucky if I can muster 5-a-week.  But after a diet of fast food, namely bacon rolls, burgers and fish and chips my body was crying out for some decent food.

It gave me a chance to catch up on the oft maligned Channel Four Racing and I have to say I found their coverage to be perfectly OK. Yes it would be nice to have more paddock coverage but that is also a criticism that can also be laid at both dedicated racing channels.     

I also took the opportunity to catch up on C4’s coverage of Cheltenham and, again, they made a good fist of it but I wish once again they would show more of the horses in the preliminaries rather than some of the “features” but I suppose they also have to cater for the non-racing viewers as well.

Also was it me but were there more commercial breaks than usual.

The most annoying aspect of C4’s coverage was the fancy camera work with far too many changes of angle and close-up shots. This wouldn’t normally bother me but in the media centre they were using the Channel 4 pictureswhich meant the DVD recorder in the media centre also recorded these shots. This meant when watching a replay it was difficult to get a proper picture of what was going on in the race, it was so exasperating.    

As always Simon Holt’s commentary was faultless. Although it has to be said all the commentators covering the Festival were on top form. Richard Hoiles, Mike Cattamole and Mark Johnson for the on-course and, especially, John Hunt on BBC Radio.

It has to be said John Hunt’s commentaries are a far cry from those of Peter Bromley and even his successor the excellent Lee McKenzie and I have to say the difference has taken some getting used to. John has a more relaxed, informal approach to his calling.

He does, however, provide the perfect commentary for radio. Not only can he paint a picture of what is happening in the race, the picture he creates is in glorious Technicolor, giving you a real feel of what is happening and the atmosphere.

Hunt has, in the last year, given the two best radio commentaries on any sporting event. If you can listen to his call of Sea The Stars Arc and this weeks Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Being at both events I did not hear his calls live but I heard both later on. He manages, almost perfectly, not only to convey what is happening but to also convey the electric atmosphere. Listening to both those commentaries I can relive the emotions I felt at the time.

Being a commentator, especially a racing commentator, is one of the most difficult broadcasting jobs around. Being a radio commentator, in any sport, is even harder. Being an exceptional radio commentator is a rarity but in John Hunt I believe we have one.

On the subject of the BBC Radio coverage of Cheltenham it is right to give credit where credit is due.

Last year I was very critical of the coverage, in particular the “pantomime” coverage on one of the afternoons.

This year there was no repeat, instead good professional coverage and there seemed to be more coverage in other shows as well, although we still had to suffer Peter Allen’s clear dislike of the sport.

I was particularly impressed with the coverage on Sport On Five on Friday evening, which made for good listening driving home from the course. Of course it helps when the presenter has a liking for the sport .

So well done BBC Radio and very well done Mr Hunt.  


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