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The ITV Seven

The ITV Seven was an essential part of World of Sport in the United Kingdom. It started on 4 October 1969 when the programme began to show horse racing from two courses each week rather than one, under the title "They're Off". In the early 1970s it changed to the ITV Seven, reflecting the number of races it showed each week. The ITV Seven was also the title of a fiendishly difficult accumulator bet where vast sums of money could be won if you correctly predicted the winners of all seven races.

The weekly live coverage came from racecourses such as Sandown Park, York, Newmarket, Doncaster, Newcastle and Redcar. More minor tracks like Warwick, Catterick and Market Rasen were also extensively featured, especially during the National Hunt season in the winter, when ITV had the rights to fewer of the big races. Meetings from Goodwood and Haydock Park appeared occasionally, and a meeting from Ascot was shown as a one-off in 1977 when the BBC were covering the Grand National at Aintree. From January 1980 onwards, meetings from Kempton Park were shown regularly - before that time, Kempton meetings were on the BBC and were featured on Grandstand.

Over the years, the live coverage was presented by John Rickman (until 1977), Brough Scott, Ken Butler, Lord Oaksey (initially known on the programme as John Lawrence, and subsequently becoming John Oaksey after he succeeded to the peerage), and Derek Thompson and Jim McGrath (from 1981 onwards). Race commentators were Tony Cooke and Bob Haynes (in the first couple of years), John Penney and Raleigh Gilbert (the main commentators from 1972 to 1980) and Graham Goode (the main commentator from 1981). When racing was impossible due to the weather, greyhound racing would often be shown instead (those were the days before all-weather horse racing).

The feature was sometimes known (especially in later years) as the ITV Six, the ITV Five or even the ITV Four if fewer races were being shown. On these occasions, the bet would be on the remaining televised races, and would be comparatively easy to win, although still exceptionally hard. In the 1980s ITV reduced its racing coverage, and often in the last years of World of Sport only one meeting would be shown. The last ITV Seven came from Kempton Park and Thirsk on 7 September 1985, three weeks before the last World of Sport, which only covered one meeting, at Redcar. ITV's midweek racing coverage had already been on Channel 4 since 22 March 1984; from 5 October 1985 the Saturday afternoon coverage also moved to the fourth channel, permanently becoming Channel 4 Racing, although it was reduced in scope considerably at the start of 1986, and would not become as extensive as it was in the ITV era until the late 1990s.


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