Don't Kick The Cat

Commentator Mike Cattermole has been through a torrid time in the past few months, what with his faux pas at Newbury where he incorrectly called a 150/1 shot as the race leader.

Then on Saturday he had a few problems with his Grand National commentary, incorrectly calling two fallers and an incorrect pulled up.

My initial reaction was, “oh dear, what a cock-up”.

I have no doubt his own reaction would have been much stronger – he will have been gutted by the mistake.

From my experience commentators are their own worse critics. Most watch recordings of races they have called, not for some narcissus reason but to analyse the call and see how they can do better next time.

I have said it before and I make no apologies for repeating the point, the commentators have one the most stressful jobs at the racecourse, only the jockeys are under greater pressure.

Every one of us makes mistakes at work, when a commentator gets it wrong it everyone notices, when the “bad day at the office” happens to coincide with, arguably, the biggest race of the year then there is nowhere to hide.

To my immense shame my first reaction was to post a forum comment criticising Mike. Looking back I admit I was perhaps too hasty in my criticism.

Yes he did make a cock-up, that cannot be denied. Could I have done it any better – what a stupid thought, of course I couldn’t!! So if you cannot do it yourself do not criticise.

Looking at the circumstances in the cold light of day one cannot help but feel a great deal of sympathy for Mike.

His commentary position was near the third fence which would give him a good view of the action of the first section of the course, looking back at a recording of the race his call for that section was OK.

For the Valentines Brook - Melling Road section he would be reliant on either the monitor or using binoculars.

Most people at home would be watching the race on decent television sets - the commentator only has a relatively small CRT monitor, which may or may not be impacted by glare - he certainly will not have an HD picture.

He will also be at the mercy of the director regarding the shots shown on the monitor and he also has to concentrate on trying to pick up what has fallen along with describing what is coming up next.

Using the binoculars he would not have had the clearest of views of the far side of the course, with traffic in the centre of the course and big screens obstructing his view. Add to that the fact he is looking at the action side on, with a big field the runners on the far side of the field would be obscured.

Some of the blame must rest with Racetech, who supply the commentators, in only having two commentators cover the race.

It should be noted that both BBC television and radio have four commentators located all round the track and even they get it wrong sometimes.

Racetech should also look at using four commentators as well. Indeed let’s be radical and adopt the position being increasingly used by Channel Four and, to a lesser extent, the BBC and use the Racetech commentary for both on-course and terrestrial television.

This means the four best commentators could be given the race, indeed why not do what one forum contributor suggested and let the racing public decide who gets the call?

My choice – now that would be telling!!!         


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