zap rachael ray food gallery 420 Rachael Ray expects Katie Couric to 'kill it' in daytimeRachael Ray is not only ready for more daytime competition, she welcomes it.

With Katie Couric and current “Dancing With the Stars” contestant Ricki Lake set to launch their own syndicated weekday shows next fall, the host of the Daytime Emmy-winning “Rachael Ray” tells Zap2it she finds the prospect of having those new rivals “really exciting.

“I’m a huge Katie fan, and I think she’s going to kill it. And I love Ricki. There’s going to be a lot of great television to watch. I think those are probably both afternoon-type shows, and the afternoon hasn’t settled in yet. There isn’t another ‘Oprah,’ and there never will be, but there isn’t a lot of smart talk going on in the afternoon.”

Comedian Steve Harvey, “Survivor” staple Jeff Probst and British show presenter Trisha Goddard also are aiming to go the syndicated-talk route in 2012. For another past example, Ray says, “We used to have ‘Donahue’ back in the day. We had ‘Oprah’ for 25 years, and there’s nothing that’s really filling that real estate right now. I think it’s going to be great.”

A more imminent change in daytime will come with Regis Philbin‘s exit from “Live! With Regis and Kelly” Friday, Nov. 18. “He did our first episode this season,” Ray notes. “I adore him and [wife] Joy, and that man so deserves a break. I mean, tens of thousands of hours of television! He’s doing the right thing. He should go off and have a little fun; he’s certainly earned it, but everyone will miss him.

“Just like there’s only one Oprah, there’s only one Reege. He’s just become so iconic, and everybody loves doing their Regis impressions. It’s going to be weird, but Kelly [Ripa] is such a rock star, I’m sure she’ll settle in with whoever replaces him. She’s hilarious in her own right.”

With its host feeling “really blessed” to have the ratings and demographics it does, “Rachael Ray” will air its 1,000th episode early next year. Some of its new competition actually has arrived already, but Ray doesn’t see ABC’s “The Chew” as the enemy: In fact, she’s a guest on a Halloween-themed episode of the show today (Thursday, Oct. 27).

Mario [Batali] and Mike [Symon] are dear friends, and Clinton [Kelly] is on our show all the time. It’s so weird being over there, because it’s like being at my own show. Some of the staff worked for us a few years ago, and some came from ‘Good Morning America,’ so I pretty much know everybody there.

“I think ‘The Chew’ is a really fun idea,” adds Ray, who also will be among the celebrity chefs on the interactive Food Network special “Thanksgiving Live!” Sunday, Nov. 20. “You can’t have too much food on television.”

Posted by:Jay Bobbin