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Clare Balding signs up as face of Channel 4 Racing

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Clare Balding

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Clare Balding has been announced as lead presenter of Channel 4 Racing next year, when the broadcaster takes over coverage of major events such as the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival from the BBC.

Fresh from appearing in the BBC's London 2012 Olympics coverage, Balding has agreed to become the new face of Channel 4 Racing from January 1, 2013.

Channel 4 said that Balding will bring her "expertise and warmth" to the coverage when the broadcaster starts a new rights deal to major horseracing events after outbidding the corporation earlier in the year.

The deal, which runs from January 2013 to December 2016, includes the Cheltenham Festival, Aintree's three-day Grand National meeting, the Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the entire Flat Season British Champions Series and Day.

Ahead of joining Channel 4 Racing, Balding will also be part of Channel 4's coverage of the Paralympic Games, which gets under way later this month.

"I am absolutely thrilled that Channel 4 has asked me to be a part of their new racing team," Balding said.

"Racing is my 'home' sport and I am delighted that I will still be part of its coverage on TV.

"I am excited by Channel 4's plans for their coverage and the way in which they have committed to expanding the profile of jockeys, trainers and horses."

In preparation for the new rights deal, Channel 4 has handed IMG Sports Media the four-year production contract for its exclusive horseracing coverage.

BBC Sport senior programme editor Carl Hicks, who recently edited some of the BBC's Olympics coverage, will join IMG to work as executive producer for Channel 4 Racing.

With previous experience covering the Grand National, Ascot and the Derby, Hicks will now focus on overseeing 90 days a year of live terrestrial horseracing as part of his IMG contract.

Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt said that she is "excited" to add the expertise of Balding and IMG to Channel 4's racing coverage.

"Clare has shown over the last two weeks at the Olympics why she is rightly acclaimed as one of the UK's leading broadcasters and I'm delighted that, in addition to presenting the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Channel 4 this autumn, she will lead our horse racing coverage from 2013," said Hunt.

"With the expertise of IMG Sports on board, I'm hugely excited about the future of racing on Channel 4."

Channel 4 Sports Editor Jamie Aitchison said that IMG's pitch was chosen due to its "deep racing expertise allied to innovative broadcasting proposals".

"The winning bid hails the arrival of a new era in broadcasting for the sport at a time when the industry is moving forwards with real momentum. The hard work starts now as we head towards 2013 and the exciting challenges ahead," he said.

"Clare's arrival is superb news for Channel 4 and the production team. Quite simply she is the sports broadcaster of her era and for her to be heading up our coverage across the year is extremely exciting. Racing fans have a lot to look forward to."

Channel 4 has also today announced that Channel 4 Racing sponsors, Dubai, have signed a new four-year extension deal until 2016.

The broadcast further confirmed that the channel4.com/racing website will be relaunched before January 2013 and IMG will look to extend the digital proposition onto other platforms.

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