Horse & Hound

H&H interview

Equestrian commentato­r Nick Luck

- H&H

BLESSED with a set of golden tonsils and the performing gene, a career in television was inevitable for Nick Luck. The name will be familiar to anyone who has followed the Sport of Kings in recent years, as he has forged an enviable career in front of the camera for Channel 4 Racing, Racing UK and American broadcaste­r NBC.

But the 39-year-old self-confessed racing geek has recently returned to his horsey roots by joining the BBC’s equestrian commentary team. He has Burghley and Olympia under his belt, with the rest of the corporatio­n’s equestrian portfolio to look forward to in 2018.

“Even though I’m dealing with a cousin, if you like, of what I’ve been doing before, there’s still a significan­t-enough lack of familiarit­y to frighten you a little bit,” says Nick. “You need to be a bit out of your comfort zone to raise your game and that’s why I’ve enjoyed dipping my toe into the equestrian world. It’s live, sometimes quite complex and always an occasion. And the bigger the occasion, the bigger the buzz.”

When the BBC first came knocking on Nick’s door inviting him to front Burghley in 2016, one of the busiest people in the business just happened to have a gap in his diary. And

‘You need to be a bit out of your comfort zone to raise your game and that’s why I’ve enjoyed

dipping my toe into the equestrian world’

it was soon clear that his rich, authoritat­ive tones lent themselves perfectly to the art of equestrian commentary. He describes his role alongside the likes of Ian Stark and Andy Austin as a “commentato­r-summariser dynamic” — the perfect double act, if you like.

“It’s not two commentato­rs trying to shout over each other, or two experts trying to outwit each other,” he explains. “It’s a different discipline to what I’m used to because I’m more of a presenter or reporter in my other jobs, so it’s been a different mental challenge. I want my summariser­s to own their expertise and I can say relatively little at the important moments, but then tie it all together for people to understand.

“I enjoyed working with Ian Stark at Burghley. After a couple of hours, we’d found our relationsh­ip, which then enabled him to be a bit more opinionate­d, and I think people enjoyed that. It’s about making sure the audience is appraised of everything at all the relevant moments and building the excitement gradually through the course of the show. A little humour helps as well!”

THE comparison­s between Nick and Clare Balding are inevitable — and their career paths crossed while the pair fronted Channel 4 Racing’s flagship programmes — but the father of two, with a third daughter due with wife Laura in April, has determined­ly furrowed his own path since his big break came with At The Races while still at university.

He was born to horse-loving parents and grew up on ponies in an environmen­t enriched by various veins of equestrian royalty. Nick’s intense love of racing flickered from an early age thanks to his godfather, Grand National-winning trainer Josh Gifford, while godmother Christine Green — a legendary vet who just happened to look after Gerald Durrell’s animals — would take him for days out at Ascot.

“I’ve always followed racing with an intensity that belied my age,” says Nick, who grew up in Hampshire but now lives in south-west London. “While my family would generally only watch jump racing, I would watch everything, all the time. I just loved it.”

In the saddle, a young Nick was taught by the leading show producers Marjorie and Richard Ramsay.

“Marjorie was a wonderful woman and, if I’d been any good at all, I’d have been deadly because she was the best teacher you could have had,” says Nick. “Unfortunat­ely, the talent didn’t mach the enthusiasm — I loved it all, but the natural sporting gene just didn’t exist.”

But this wonderful grounding has provided a rich wealth of knowledge for when he takes his hot seat during the live equestrian action.

“Enough sunk in and I’m surprising myself by pulling stuff out of the back of my head that I thought I’d forgotten 25 years ago,” he says with a grin. “I’m by no means an expert across any of the discipline­s, but I’m interested enough and know just enough to try to elicit the expertise from those people I have sitting alongside me.”

There’s plenty to be proud of in Nick’s extensive back catalogue of, often awardwinni­ng, work — the highlight being fronting the 2015 Grand National for Channel 4

Racing, he says.

“There was a lot of chat beforehand about whether a bigger name was going to be brought in to present it, but my producer at the time, Carl Hicks, stuck out for me and, hopefully, his loyalty was rewarded because the programme won a few awards and had a huge audience,” he says.

NICK was one of the casualties when

ITV Racing took over from Channel 4 in 2017, but has managed to embrace the change in circumstan­ces.

“Editoriall­y, ITV were given a mandate to go in a slightly different direction and, while I’m sure I could have made a fairly significan­t contributi­on to ITV’s shows, it would have looked a bit odd if they’d opened their brandnew show with the bloke who had said goodbye three days earlier on a different channel,” says Nick philosophi­cally. “I’m quite a positive person, so even though it was tempting to harbour some sense of injustice, there are any number of opportunit­ies out there and I was still on the right side of 40.

“I was very sad when it ended, mainly because I’d built up such good relationsh­ips with some terrific people. But the extra freedom has afforded me the opportunit­y to break my life up in more ways and I’ve probably had more satisfacti­on being able to do that.

“Hopefully, there’s enough variety within what I do now to show people I’m not a onetrick pony — no pun intended. I’ve realised over the past year that you need to be open to all possibilit­ies and to make the most of them. That’s what makes life more enjoyable, gives you great job satisfacti­on and keeps you fresh. I consider myself lucky because the situation could have been very different.”

So, as well as filling the BBC airwaves, what else does 2018 have in store? By his own admission, “there’s a lot going on in my life right now”. Nick estimates he’ll be working overseas for more than 17 weeks of the year covering internatio­nal racing, there’s his hugely popular weekly chat show on Racing UK, Luck On Sunday, a milestone birthday looming, the new Baby Luck’s imminent arrival and he is hosting America’s prestigiou­s Eclipse racing awards next week.

Has following the fortunes of Oliver Townend and Scott Brash in recent months inspired Nick to get back in the saddle? “I haven’t ridden since I was 20 — that’s half my life without sitting on a horse, while for the first half of my life I probably attempted to ride most days,” he says. “You never know… But I’m going to carry on my new regime of going down the gym, so I can actually get in to a decent pair of jodhpurs. I need to sharpen up my lifestyle anyway — I think I’m going to need the energy this year.”

 ??  ?? ‘the bigger the occasion, the bigger the buzz’: nick Luck has enjoyed an enviable career
in front of the camera
‘the bigger the occasion, the bigger the buzz’: nick Luck has enjoyed an enviable career in front of the camera
 ??  ?? The highlight of Nick’s career so far has been fronting the 2015 Grand National for Channel 4
Racing, which became an award-winning programme
The highlight of Nick’s career so far has been fronting the 2015 Grand National for Channel 4 Racing, which became an award-winning programme
 ??  ?? ‘I’ve always followed racing with an intensity that belied my age’: Nick at Royal Ascot with his then fellow presenter, Emma Spencer
British internatio­nal dressage rider
Lara Butler
‘I’ve always followed racing with an intensity that belied my age’: Nick at Royal Ascot with his then fellow presenter, Emma Spencer British internatio­nal dressage rider Lara Butler

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