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Clare Balding

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Balding in August 2017
Clare Victoria Balding

(1971-01-29) 29 January 1971 (age 53)
Kingsclere, Hampshire, England
Nationality English
Alma mater Newnham College, Cambridge
  • Television and radio presenter
  • journalist
  • jockey
Alice Arnold
(m. 2015)
  • Ian Balding (father)
  • Emma Hastings-Bass (mother)
  • Andrew Balding (brother)
  • Gerald Barnard Balding Sr. (grandfather)
  • Toby Balding (uncle)
  • Ivor G. Balding (great-uncle)

Clare Victoria Balding CBE (born 29 January 1971) is an English broadcast journalist and author. She currently presents for BBC Sport, Channel 4 and BT Sport and formerly presented the religious programme Good Morning Sunday on BBC Radio 2. Balding was appointed as the 30th president of the Rugby Football League, serving a two-year term until December 2022.

Early life and family

Clare Balding was privately educated at the independent, Downe House school in Berkshire, where she was Head Girl and a contemporary of comedian Miranda Hart (Hart and Balding are in fact tenth-cousins, sharing a nine-times-great-grandfather in Sir William Leveson-Gower, 4th Baronet).

Balding applied to read law at Christ's College, Cambridge, but failed her interview and realised that law was not what she most wanted to do. She later successfully applied to Newnham College, Cambridge, and read English. While at university she was President of the Cambridge Union Society in Easter 1992 and graduated in 1993 with a 2:1 honours degree.

From 1988 to 1993, Balding was a leading amateur flat jockey and Champion Lady Rider in 1990. Her memoir My Animals and Other Family, which documents her life growing up in a racing yard, won the National Book Award for "Autobiography of the Year" in 2012.

Balding has close family links to horse racing: her father, Ian Balding, trained Mill Reef, 1971 winner of The Derby, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes; and her younger brother, Andrew Balding, trained Casual Look, the winner of the 2003 Epsom Oaks. The latter win led to a very emotional post-race interview with her brother. Her uncle Toby Balding trained winners in the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle. Furthermore, her maternal grandfather was the trainer Peter Hastings-Bass and her maternal uncle William Hastings-Bass, 17th Earl of Huntingdon was once trainer to Queen Elizabeth II. Her maternal grandmother, Priscilla Hastings, was descended from the Earls of Derby and was one of the first women elected to membership of the Jockey Club.

Balding's well-documented aristocratic lineage on her mother's side can be seen in records that TheGenealogist has identified in research. .....? (British TV series)|Who Do You Think You Are?]] programme first broadcast in July 2017. Balding's paternal grandfather Gerald Barnard Balding Sr, was a 10-goal polo player who immigrated to America to play polo in the 1920s when he was in his 20s. Outbound passenger lists on a genealogy website include Balding's grandfather and it was at this time that Gerald Balding Sr met and later married the American heiress, Eleanor Hoagland. During the show, Balding discovered her great-great-great-grandfather was Joseph Hoagland who, in 1866, founded the Royal Baking Powder Company with his brother, Cornelius. Through pioneering use of mass advertising campaigns, they contributed to building one of the largest producers of baking powder in the U.S.

Broadcasting career

Clare Balding in 2005

Balding became a trainee with BBC National Radio in 1994, working on 5 Live, Radio 1 (presenting the sport on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show), Radio 2 and Radio 4. In June 1995, she made her debut as a television presenter, introducing highlights of Royal Ascot. The following year she began presenting live, and in December 1997 she became the BBC's lead horse racing presenter after the retirement of Julian Wilson. In his book "Some You Win" Wilson revealed he had a strained relationship with Balding and that led to him retiring in 1997. Balding has fronted coverage of the Grand National, infamously humiliating Liam Treadwell, Grand National winning jockey in 2009 on Mon Mome.

Balding has reported from seven Olympic Games, for BBC Radio in Atlanta and for BBC Television in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. She has presented five Paralympic Games, the Winter Olympics from Salt Lake City, Turin, Vancouver, Sochi Pyeongchang and Beijing as well as the Commonwealth Games from Melbourne, Delhi, Glasgow, Gold Coast and the most recent games held in Birmingham in 2022. She was the face of the BBC's rugby league coverage, having presented Grandstand from a Rugby League Challenge Cup semi-final, and having been so impressed by the vibrancy and physical challenge of the sport she asked to cover further rugby league events. She was the last person to present Sunday Grandstand.

She also presents the Lord Mayor's Show as well as other live events for the BBC, such as Trooping the Colour, New Year's Eve and lead commentary for the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Balding has presented coverage of Crufts for the BBC from 2004 to 2009 and for Channel 4 since 2013.

She also presents the walking programme Ramblings for BBC Radio 4, where she walks and talks with one or more devotees of a particular route, area or activity and has, for example, walked sections of the Lyke Wake Walk and Dales Way for the programme. Clare worked on BBC Radio 5 Live's Wimbledon coverage from 1995 to 2014. There has been some criticism of her in this role, due to her lack of knowledge and enthusiasm. She has also presented coverage of The Boat Race for the BBC since 2010, including the first live coverage of the women's Boat Race on the Tideway in 2015.

In 2010, Balding presented a BBC TV series called Britain By Bike that retraced some of Harold Briercliffe's British cycle tours.

In August 2011 Balding joined BBC's Countryfile, temporarily replacing Julia Bradbury while Bradbury was on maternity leave, co-hosting the show with Matt Baker. Bradbury returned in February 2012.

From February to March 2012 she presented Sport and the British on BBC Radio 4, a thirty-part series looking at the impact of sports on British life.

Balding was a lead presenter on Channel 4's 2012 Summer Paralympics TV coverage. In August 2012 it was reported that Balding would be presenting Channel 4's racing coverage, while still retaining an option to work for the BBC on non-racing programmes such as rugby league.

In October 2012, she appeared before an All Party Parliamentary Group on women's sport, with Katherine Grainger, Hope Powell and Tanni Grey-Thompson. "Women having freedom to play sport leads directly to women having political freedom", said Balding. In 2013, to mark the centenary of Emily Wilding Davison's fatal intervention in the 1913 Derby, Balding presented a documentary about Davison for Channel 4 called Secrets of the Suffragettes. Also in 2013, she presented a BBC documentary about the Queen called The Queen – a Passion for Horses. Other factual documentaries for the BBC have included Britain By Bike, Operation Wild, and Britain's Hidden Heritage.

Stockbridge Christmas Evening - Sue Robinson, Clare Balding and Anno Webley in Lane End Kitchenware (cropped) (cropped 2)
Clare Balding in December 2015

She serves as one of the presenters on BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Balding was the presenter of Good Morning Sunday on BBC Radio 2 from January 2013 to November 2017; leaving the show due to schedule changes which would not allow her to continue to present the programme and do other work. Balding also presented a Saturday night quiz show for BBC One called Britain's Brightest, which began in January 2013. She was a senior presenter on Channel 4 Racing, from 2013 to 2016, predominantly fronting coverage of major festivals such as Cheltenham and Royal Ascot. Since 2015, she has fronted Today at Wimbledon for the BBC. In 2023, Balding will be BBC's lead presenter for Wimbledon, replacing Sue Barker who retired in 2022.

Balding currently hosts her own sports chat show called The Clare Balding Show, which airs on BT Sport and BBC Two. Guests so far have included Lewis Hamilton, Tom Daley, Mike Tyson, Martina Navratilova, Frankie Dettori, Judy Murray and Ronnie O'Sullivan.


Balding has written columns for The Sporting Life, Racing Post, Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and Stylist and currently writes a regular weekly sports column for Waitrose Weekend.

She signed a deal with Viking Press to write an autobiography entitled My Animals and Other Family, which was published in September 2012. My Animals and Other Family reached Number One in The Sunday Times Bestseller list and has been translated into Italian, Mandarin and Hungarian. Her second book, Walking Home: My Family and other Ramblings, was published in September 2014.

Honours, awards and assessment

Balding was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to broadcasting and journalism. In the same year, Balding was presented with the special BAFTA for her work on the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Balding won the Royal Television Society's "Sports Presenter of the Year" in 2003 and "Presenter" in 2012. Also in 2003, she won the "Racing Journalist of the Year Award" and has followed up with the award for "Racing Broadcaster of the Year".

In December 2012, she was awarded the "Biography/Autobiography of the Year" award of the National Book Awards for My Animals and Other Family.

She won an achievement award from the UK chapter of the Women in Film and Television in 2012 for her coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics.

Balding was awarded the 2012 Sports Journalists' Association's annual British Sports Journalism Award for Sports Broadcaster of the Year (BBC and Channel 4).

In February 2013 she was assessed as being one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4. and also won the award for Sports Presenter at the Television and Radio Industries Club Awards.

Her other awards include Attitude Awards TV Personality of the Year 2012, TRIC Sports Presenter of the Year 2013, British Equestrian Federation Outstanding Journalist of the Year 2014, First Women Awards Lifetime Achievement 2015, the Horserace Writers' Association's Broadcaster of the Year award and awards from Tatler magazine.

Balding was made an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge in 2014.

She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2022 Birthday Honours for services to sport and charity.

Personal life

Balding is a lesbian. Balding formalised her relationship with Alice Arnold, then a BBC Radio 4 continuity announcer and newsreader, in September 2006 by entering into a civil partnership. The couple lived with their Tibetan terrier, Archie. In April 2015, she and Arnold married in a private ceremony. They live in Chiswick, West London.

On 29 May 2009, Balding announced that she had thyroid cancer. She promised to be back on television covering the Epsom Derby, by the following Saturday. On 21 August 2009, she announced that the radioactive iodine had been successful with no signs of the cancer having spread.

..... In 2014, she was named in the top 10 on the World Pride Power list.

After Liam Treadwell's Grand National victory on 4 April 2009, Balding interviewed him and made fun of his apparently bad teeth. Balding later clarified on BBC's Have I Got News For You quiz that she believed Treadwell, who suffered from microdontia and hypodontia, to have had his teeth "kicked out" by a horse, a common injury suffered by jockeys, apologising again for her error. However, Treadwell stated that he was pleased with her comment, as a dentist offered to fix his teeth at no cost. "It was the best thing Clare ever said", Treadwell said.

In 2014, Balding publicly backed Hacked Off and its campaign towards UK press self-regulation by "safeguarding the press from political interference while also giving vital protection to the vulnerable."

Charitable activity

Balding has been a presenter on Sport Relief since its inception in 2002. She also participated in a celebrity edition of The Apprentice to raise money for charity. Sport Relief Does The Apprentice is part of the BBC's annual charity initiative and aired on 12 and 14 March 2008. "The Girls' team", which also included Louise Redknapp, Jacqueline Gold, Kirstie Allsopp and Lisa Snowdon, won the contest, raising over £400,000 from ticket sales and sales on the night of the big event at their shop.

In 2010, Balding became a patron of the British Thyroid Foundation.

In 2015, Balding became an ambassador for Southampton FC's official charity, the Saints Foundation.

She is also patron to a number of other charities including Riding for the Disabled, British Paralympic Association, Diversity Role Models, The Mintridge Foundation and the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. Plus she is Vice-Patron for Injured Jockeys Fund and Helen Rollason Cancer Charity.

Rugby league

After fronting the BBC coverage of the sport for several years, Balding was appointed as the 30th President of the Rugby Football League in July 2020 succeeding former footballer Tony Adams. The RFL Council appointed role undertakes a two-year term which Balding served from July 2020 to December 2022. She stated that during her tenure she wanted to see the women's game become a professional sport.

See also

  • List of significant families in British horse racing
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