BBC Radio 4 scraps daily horse-racing tips from Today programme

<span>The Derby festival at Epsom this month. Daily horse-racing tips have been part of the Today news programme for 47 years.</span><span>Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images</span>
The Derby festival at Epsom this month. Daily horse-racing tips have been part of the Today news programme for 47 years.Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme is axing its daily horse-racing tips, which will now be offered only for the biggest days in the racing calendar, the presenter Amol Rajan has announced on air.

Racing tips have been part of the news programme for 47 years and the decision to scrap them was described by the Racing Post as a “significant blow for the profile of the sport as it battles to maintain relevance with the wider public”.

The tips are broadcast at the end of each sports bulletin at 6.30am, 7.30am and 8.30am from Monday to Saturday.

But on Monday morning, Rajan addressed the sports reporter Mike Williams, saying: “No racing tips from you today, Mike. That is because we have decided to break the tradition of having racing tips every day of the year. Instead, we’re going to reserve the tips for the biggest days in the racing calendar.

“We will very much continue to cover horse racing, as we do so many other sports, not least through interviews with leading lights in the racing world. And we will sometimes continue to broadcast from the big ticket events like the Grand National festival or Cheltenham Gold Cup week.”

Other big events expected to merit tips include the Derby at Epsom, the Gold Cup at Ascot and the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

The BBC said: “After careful consideration, we have decided to focus racing tips on the big races across the year. The Today programme remains committed to covering racing news and this will continue on the programme’s sports bulletins.”

It is understood that BBC executives felt it was out of kilter to have racing covered daily while Today covered a much wider array of sports – as opposed to when the tips started.

Instead, the BBC will focus tips on the high-profile races of the year, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Grand National, Epsom Derby, Ascot Gold Cup and King George VI Chase at Kempton.

The Daily Mail reported last year that BBC executives were considering dropping Today’s daily racing tips, saying that senior BBC executives were understood to regard it as an anachronism, with some also arguing that it was irresponsible to be seen to be encouraging gambling at a time when it is a politically sensitive subject.

After Monday’s announcement, Michael Dugher, chair of the Betting and Gaming Council, told the Racing Post: “This is sad news but unsurprising. It also says a lot of about the current standing of the sport at the BBC.

“I suspect there have always been people at BBC Radio 4 that regard the racing tips as a bit ‘below stairs’ and, if they like racing at all, they only care about the big ‘dressing up’ meetings like Royal Ascot or Cheltenham.

“Millions of ordinary people enjoy a regular bet – whether that’s on bingo, the lottery or sports like racing. There’s definitely more than a hint of snobbery from the Today programme with this decision.”