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A Day in the life of...a Racing Presenter

13 January 2016

Racing UK presenter Oli Bell discusses his passion for the racing industry. 

What piece of wisdom would you pass on to any youngster entering the media side of the sport? 

Never be rude to people on your way up as you’ll meet them on your way down.

What’s your biggest ambition? 

Just to be respected in the industry as someone who works hard, does a good job and is nice to people along the way.

What’s your favourite smell? 

A Sunday roast being cooked.

What’s the most overrated thing in the world? 

Memphis Depay – I had a spread bet on him to score more than eight goals this season and he has been thoroughly rubbish.

If there is one thing you could change about your life, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to lift more than 3kg in the gym.

What is your earliest racing memory? 

I went to Leicester when I was four or five as my grandparents owned a horse called Home From The Hill who was trained by my uncle [Michael Bell]. She won by a head and I was yelling at my granny, who was quite this stiff -upper-lipped woman and she was deeply embarrassed. Pretty much from that day on, I was hooked.

What was the best day of your racing life? I’d pick out two days – the first was Motivator winning the Derby in 2005 and the second was The Rainbow Hunter, who I part-owned,running in the Grand National last year. He was leading the race before getting very tired in the end. For about three strides I thought he was going to win and I started tapping Kim Bailey on the shoulder going “We’re going to win the Grand National, Kim.” He turned around and said “Will you shut the f*** up!”

How much fun did you have with The Rainbow Hunter over the years? 

For the first two years we never found out whether he would stay in the National as he was so unlucky, so we went for it for a third year and we got the answer. We could have kept plugging away with him in other races but decided to retire him as he owed us absolutely nothing and he was a legend. The lass who looked after him, Tyler Daintith, has him now. She was brilliant with him for five years and we know he has a great new home, which is exactly what we wanted. He was a dream horse and it’s a perfect ending that he stays with Tyler. 

What’s the best bet you've ever had?

I put on an ante-post treble in November 2014 for Cheltenham last year which consisted of Douvan, Faugheen and Peace And Co. That paid for a round of drinks in the bar afterwards. 

Which current racehorse would you most like to own? 

Douvan, Faugheen or Peace And Co.If you were taking someone racing for the first time, where would you go and why? For the jumps, I would go to Cheltenham because the atmosphere is incredible. On the Flat, I would head to York. I really look forward to presenting there, the course is nicely laid out and the atmosphere is really good.

What do you make of the new terrestrial rights deal with ITV taking over next year? 

Was it time for a change? It’s a really exciting time for ITV and a challenge that I'm sure the team there are looking forward to getting their teeth into. I think racing needs to get more people watching the terrestrial coverage and ITV provides a good platform to do that. Racing in this country is a great product and the people who made the decision must have been partly swayed by the recent viewing figures compared to the days of old. There are more reasons than just that though, and I don’t think it was Channel 4’s fault as such. I feel sorry for the many people who received some bad news last week. Hopefully whatever happens in the future is for the betterment of racing.

Many people are sceptical about racing being shown on ITV4 – how do you see that working?

I wouldn't be able to tell you what a bike wheel is, but ITV4 have covered the Tour de France in recent years and their cycling coverage is excellent. I also watch the rugby highlights on the channel. The viewership on ITV4, in terms of the cycling and its fan base, has grown significantly with the success of the sport. They've done a brilliant job on it, so why can’t they do the same with racing? Personally, I know where ITV4 is and if there’s a sport I want to watch on the channel I wouldn't think of not watching it because it’s not BBC1, ITV1 or Channel 4. 

How do you rate your chances of being part of the ITV racing team? 

If the opportunity came I’d be like every single racing presenter in this country who’d say they’d love to be part of the team. I'm keeping my head down and we’ll just have to see what happens – I have no idea what my chances are. I’d like to think that what I've done on Racing UK and Sky in Australia will make people think I'm a decent enough racing presenter, and if the powers that be think I'm good enough to present on ITV then great.

You’re 3-1 with Paddy Power to become partof the ITV racing team. Would you back yourself? 

No I wouldn't, mainly because that would be incredibly self-indulgent. I’d probably look for a horse for a safer 3-1 shot as we just don’t know what will happen.

What was the last film you saw? 

I watched afilm the other day called People Places Things. Its tars Jemaine Clement, who was in Flight of the Conchords, and it was a funny independent comedy. 

What was the last book you read?

I'm in the process of reading The Sports Gene: Talent,Practice and the Truth About Success by David Epstein. It focuses on different sports people and how they've achieved success. It’s an interesting read and hopefully I might be able to lift more than 3kg afterwards. 

What was the last television series you really loved? 

I was a massive fan of US drama Suits. I would watch four episodes in a row and lose track of time – it was a cool series.

Give us a playlist of your favourite five songs and artists 

River (Leon Bridges); Nothing Left(Kygo feat Will Heard); You Were Right (Rüfüs);Living For The City (Stevie Wonder); Bat Out OfHell (Meat Loaf). 

What was the biggest disappointment of your career?

I can’t really knock anything – I do what I love for a job and I can’t complain.

What is the strangest/funniest thing you have ever seen on a racecourse? 

Nick Luck interviewing Anthony Knott after he rode his first winner at Wincanton. 

Who or what really annoys you? 

People who use their knife and fork like a pencil.

Give us a horse, trainer and jockey to watch out for 

Carntop, trained by Ralph Beckett, and Charlie Fellowes and George Scott are two young trainers who are friends of mine, so I suppose I have to put them in. Someone told me to watch out for 7lb claimer Adam McNamara, who is at Richard Fahey’s yard – he’s supposed to be very good. 

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

I was asked this question for the Weekender in the past – I said Jodie Marsh and got hung for it. SoI'm going to move on from that and saychocolate.

What’s your favourite hobby outside racing? 

Golf. A lot of the jockeys, trainers and valets who read this will abuse me as I won a few of the golf tournaments and by all accounts I was quite well handicapped. I like playing golf and I've improved a lot recently. I've just become a member at a club nearby – it’s quite nice to pop down there, have a hit and chat about racing with some mates and clear the head a little bit.

What’s your biggest fear? 

I hate flying with a passion, so these trips to go out and film in Dubai are just brilliant! 

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you? 

It was devastating when I was told my granddad died. 

Who’d be your four ideal dinner party guests? 

It would be full of comedians really – I would have Richard Ayoade, Hannibal Buress,Tim Key and Sean Lock. 

And, finally, what did you have for breakfast this morning? 

I actually missed breakfast this morning but I'm normally a poached eggs on toast man. 


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