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Furious ITV to punish Ascot for Sky deal by taking Shergar Cup off main channel

The fury felt by ITV over Ascot's decision to sign a broadcast deal with Sky is expected to be made public after it emerged the sport's mainstream television partner plans to punish the royal racecourse by dropping plans to show the Shergar Cup on its main channel.

In a remarkable development, it is understood ITV director of sport Niall Sloane has reversed his earlier decision to promote the international jockeys competition from the slot it held last year on ITV4.

It was announced only on Monday that the Dubai Duty Free-backed Shergar Cup would be given the prestigious position of an ITV main channel home on August 11.

However, within 24 hours of that announcement Sloane and other senior ITV Sport figures were left stunned on being informed by Ascot it had opted to end its association with Racing UK and instead revive its old relationship with At The Races, which will next year be rebranded as Sky Sports Racing.

ITV let it be known on Tuesday that it viewed Ascot's move – which was organised by the track's chief commercial officer Juliet Slot – as "bizarre".

The network, which replaced Channel 4 as the home of free-to-air racing in Britain at the start of 2017, is known to be angry given Sky was one of the rivals for ITV's current four-year contract.

Industry sources believe Sky Sports Racing – which will have Ascot as the jewel in its crown from March 2019 – will again bid for the next set of mainstream rights.

ITV has also noted Ascot's arrangement with Sky Sports Racing lasts for less than two years and comes up for renewal at the end of 2020, which is exactly when its own contract expires.

Asked about the Shergar Cup situation, Ascot director of racing Nick Smith said: "Scheduling matters are in the hands of ITV."

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