Another rite of Spring comes along this Saturday, the first one in May as the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs touches off another Triple Crown season. Hard to believe we haven’t had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, but that’s the deal.
On Thursday, NBC Sports held a conference call involving the crew that will produce and call the Derby and we have highlights.
NBC SPORTS PRESENTS UNPRECEDENTED COVERAGE OF THE 136th RUNNING OF THE KENTUCKY DERBY THIS SATURDAY AT 4 PM ET“It’s an incredible piece of Americana.” – NBC’s Costas“Of the 20 horses, I could make a strong case for about 16 of them in this race.” – NBC’s Stevens“We could be primed for another huge upset.” – NBC’s Battaglia“There is already a lot of drama involved in this years Derby.” – NBC’s HammondLOUISVILLE, KY – April 29, 2010 – NBC Sports broadcasts exclusive coverage of the 136th Kentucky Derby this Saturday starting at 4 p.m. ET. NBC Sports’ broadcast will bring the spectacle of the Kentucky Derby, the oldest continuous sporting event in the U.S. which has been contested annually since 1875, home to viewers with behind-the-scenes access, celebrities and fashion surrounding the legendary Run for the Roses. A Red Carpet will feature celebrity interviews as the stars arrive to Churchill Downs to enjoy the greatest day in horse racing.Costas, who this week won his 21st Emmy Award, and Hammond co-host the Derby alongside Stevens, a three-time Derby winner. NBC Sports’ broadcast team also includes race-caller Tom Durkin; contributing analysts/handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier; reporter Kenny Rice and on-track reporter Donna Brothers. The Kentucky Derby on NBC Sports is produced by Sam Flood and directed by David Michaels. Additionally, the TODAY Show’s Natalie Morales will contribute reports and interview celebrities as they arrive on the red carpet. Derby weekend coverage begins Friday with Ladies First: Bravo at the Kentucky Derby at 5 p.m. ET/PT.NBC Sports conducted a conference call Thursday with Costas, Hammond, Stevens, Neumeier, Battaglia, Flood and Michaels. Below are quotes from NBC’s talent and production staff about the Kentucky Derby and NBC’s coverage:COSTAS ON THE BIG EVENT FEEL OF THE DERBY: “As always it’s my job to set the stage in broad strokes, do a few interviews and then turn things over to Tom Hammond and the rest of the crew which have more expertise about horse racing than I do. I’ve grown to love this event since I’ve started to be a part of our coverage in 2002. It’s an incredible piece of Americana. I don’t know what the weather is going to be on Saturday, but generally speaking it’s a beautiful piece of panorama. It’s just a magnificent piece of television even more so these days if you have HD.STEVENS ON THIS YEAR’S DERBY: “This is one of the most wide-open Kentucky Derbys I’ve not only covered, but witnessed. It’s my job to tear this race apart, analyze it, prior to the gates opening and it’s a difficult job to do this year. It’s going to be just as difficult for the jockeys that are involved in this race. Of the 20 horses, I could make a strong case for about 16 of them in this race. With Lookin at Lucky drawing down on the inside, (jockey) Derek Gomez, who is as good a tactician in the game as there is, has got his work cut out for him. This race is really going to turn into a jockey’s race.”BATTAGLIA ON DERBY FIELD: “Lookin at Lucky threw the rail and I do think it changed the complexion of the whole race, although there is still a lot of early speed in here. A lot of horses want to get out there and go on that front end. The pace is going to be very quick. I don’t think we’re going to be able to see a horse go out there in front and steal this race. Now, it’s going to really set up for the stalkers and for the closers. So I’m kind of looking forward to it. The favorite down the rail, the second choice on the outside, we could be primed for another huge upset.”HAMMOND ON LONG SHOTS WINNING THE DERBY: “When the 50-1 shot wins, like Mine that Bird did last year, it encourages everyone to take a shot at the Kentucky Derby. What that means is sometimes the best horse doesn’t win because you have to be able to overcome adversity with so many horses in a race. It seems like every year we say it’s wide open.This year it seemed like it was going to be different because Eskendereya was going to be a solid favorite and then was injured last week and taken out of the Derby so it opens it up again. This will be our tenth Kentucky Derby broadcast. It’s one of the greatest sporting events in the country and it’s one we look forward to every year.”FLOOD ON THE BROAD AUDIENCE THAT WATCHES THE DERBY: “The Derby is it’s much more than a horse race. It’s the biggest event to kickoff spring and we are going to capture all of the elements to make this such a special day that draws 150 plus thousand people to this racetrack and millions more to the television. It was interesting for me to learn that the Derby is one of only three major sporting events that draws more female viewers than men. The Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics are the other two. So we’re making sure we cater to a broader audience.”FLOOD ON THE DERBY BROADCAST: “When we come on the air at 4 p.m. we’re going to be capturing all of the blend of racing, the spectacle, the pageantry and, as we get closer to race time, we transition more into traditional horse stories. There are plenty of stories of owners and trainers that will make you care beyond just the horses on the track, and we’ll take advantage of that.”COSTAS ON INTERVIEW WITH JOE TORRE: “One thing that will be an element of the telecast that I’ll be involved in is we’ll do an interview with Joe Torre, who owns a piece of Homeboykris. He’ll be in the Dodger clubhouse around 2:30 PT and we’ll hook up with him and talk about his love of horse racing. Even though Homeboykris is a long shot, Mine that Bird and Giacomo are a part of recent history and long shots have come in at Churchill Downs so you never know.”HAMMOND ON FAVORITE LOOKIN AT LUCKY IN NO. 1 POST: “Lookin at Lucky drew the No. 1 post position, which is a tough post position to go a mile and a quarter in the Kentucky Derby if you don’t break out of the gate with some alacrity you’re going to get shut off and maybe lose all chance to win the race. On the other bookend, Sidney’s Candy, one of the favorites, one of the front-runners, is on the outside No. 20 post position. There is already a lot of drama involved in this years Derby. You can bet the opinions of who will win are going to be widely dispersed between maybe 15 or 16 of the 20 horses. Only a couple horses seem to be ranked outsiders.”NEUMEIER ON THE FILLY DEVIL MAY CARE: “We have a filly in this year, called Devil May Care, that I rank in my top 5 selections and would not be particularly surprised if she won this race, essentially repeating what Rachel Alexandra did. Meaning a filly beating the boys, which happens very rarely. Now, Gary Stevens knows very well because he rode one in Winning Colors. His trainer that year was D. Wayne Lukas and he’s in the race as well with Dublin. The irony of that would be that Todd Pletcher, who is 0 for 24 and has been preeminent trainer in the country in the last five years, still looking for his first Derby win, saddles Devil May Care. She wouldn’t have been in if Eskendereya had been in the race. So imagine that scenario, if she had won, and Pletcher’s first Derby winner would be a filly, that wouldn’t have entered the race had Eskendereya been injured.”NEUMEIER ON HIS CONVERSATION WITH BOB BAFFERT ON THE TRACK SURFACES: “Something I asked Bob Baffert the other day because I grew up, like most of us, on dirt and turf in following racing. I asked him flat out, ‘Do you know when you make the transition from synthetic to dirt that your horse will run as good or better’ and he looked at me and said ‘I’m just guessing. We’re all just guessing.’ That was his response to the question and that’s Bob Baffert who has won three Kentucky Derbys.”STEVENS ON ALTERING THE NUMBER OF HORSES ALLOWED TO ENTER INTO THE DERBY: “I’m a purist when it comes to the Kentucky Derby. If you change it, you’re changing history. There have been suggestions that the race should be shortened up. The Kentucky Derby cannot be touched.”HAMMOND ON ALTERING THE NUMBER OF HORSES ALLOWED TO ENTER INTO THE DERBY: “You might want to tweak the graded earnings part. A lot of times two-year-old graded earnings factor into it and some horses get into the race that perhaps haven’t done much lately. Perhaps make it a three-year-old graded earnings and tweak the criteria. So many people want to run their horse in the Kentucky Derby. It’s such a great event. It’s America’s race. It’s produced so many great upset stories that you should leave it at 20.”STEVENS ON THE JOCKEYS AND A MUDDY TRACK: “Realistically you can see these jockey’s wearing up to 10 pairs of goggles. When you’ve got that many layers of goggles stacked up, everything becomes very distorted. Your vision is impaired significantly. Front-runners are definitely going to have an advantage with a sloppy type of racetrack and there is already an over abundance of speed in this race. There are six or seven horses that are confirmed front-runners but some of these horses are going to be taking mud for the first time and kick back for the first time.”FLOOD ON POSSIBLE WEATHER PROBLEMS: “The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore has been called out of the bullpen. It looks to be coming into the area for Saturday, so Mr. Cantore will make sure we have the right knowledge on what might happen weather-wise. Some are saying that 3-5 inches of rain might come on Saturday but these horses run on the mud and it could make for an interesting spectacle if it all comes down that way. The weather does add some production challenges. In fact, we’ve put an airplane on hold for the blimp. Normally the blimp is above us. Last year at the Preakness we had some weather and they scrambled an airplane up for us for the overhead shot so we’ve got that plan B in place.”MICHAELS ON THE WEATHER CHALLENGES: “It’ll be unique if the lightning comes and it kind of harkens back to what happened in 2004, when I was producing the event. My No. 1 memory was Tom Hammond jumping off the announce platform and taking shelter underneath while the rain and lightning came. We took the format for that show and basically ripped it up and just moved into a sports news operation. You have animals running on dirt, you have mud everywhere, you have cameramen who are holding pointers to the sky that are nothing more than high-tech lightening rods, so the potential for chaos is there and we run through a lot of scenarios. We have all kinds of contingency plans and one of the interesting things was the fact that now that they have the lights here at Churchill Downs they could run a race at any time, so the track assures us that the Kentucky Derby will be run on Saturday. That we know.”
SIRIUS XM RADIO TO BROADCAST THE 136th RUNNING OF THE KENTUCKY DERBYLive race broadcast will air on SIRIUS channel 120 and XM channel 140Special editions of SIRIUS XM talk shows “At The Races” and “Down The Stretch” to provide horse racing fans with the latest news and analysisNEW YORK – April 28, 2010 – SIRIUS XM Radio will offer comprehensive coverage of the first jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby, this Saturday, May 1.SIRIUS and XM listeners around the country will hear the live race call of the 136th “Run for the Roses” (5:00 pm ET) on SIRIUS channel 120 and XM channel 140.Prior to the race broadcast and throughout the week, SIRIUS XM’s exclusive horse racing talk shows will provide listeners with the latest news and analysis leading up to horse racing’s most celebrated day.Every weekday afternoon At The Races with Steve Byk (4:00 – 7:00 pm ET on SIRIUS channel 126 and on XM channel 243) will air live from Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Byk will talk with handicapping experts and Derby trainers each day to give his audience and expert look at the field.
On Saturday a special pre-Derby edition of Down The Stretch, hosted by Dave Johnson and Bill Finley, will air live from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm ET on SIRIUS channel 126 and XM channel 243. Johnson, the acclaimed track announcer who called the Derby for 24 years, and Finley will discuss all the stakes races happening that day at Churchill Downs, provide the latest Derby news and pre-race analysis, and interview drivers, trainers and owners.
One more post coming up and that has to do with baseball this weekend.