Saturday, November 04, 2006

Gearing up for horse racing’s biggest day

Jim Williams, The Examiner
Nov 4, 2006 5:00 AM (3 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 4 of 5,786 articles

BALTIMORE - Football fans have the Super Bowl, baseball fans have the World Series, hockey fans have the Stanley Cup and horse racing fans have the Breeders’ Cup.

You can bet Maryland’s many horse-racing fans will be glued to the TV set this weekend while having cup parties.

On Saturday from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., ESPN and ESPNHD will devote seven-plus hours on a huge college football afternoon to cover the 23rd Breeders’ Cup, the single biggest day in all of horse racing and another in a long line of premier sporting events to move from broadcast TV to cable. NBC had long been the home of the Breeders’ Cup, but it now belongs to ESPN.

The network has dedicated an entire week to Breeders’ Cup programming, leading up to Saturday’s big day. It all begins at high noon, with the first of eight races featuring a combined, one-day purse of a staggering $20 million in prize money. The showcase event, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, will cap off the day with a post time of 5:20 p.m.

Throughout the past few years, ESPN and ESPN2 have quickly established themselves as the leader in thoroughbred racing coverage, with more hours dedicated to races and shows promoting the sport than any other major network. They are working on revving up interest in the Breeders’ Cup by presenting a series of qualifying races. ESPN’s Cup qualifying starts July 28 at Saratoga and runs through Oct. 7 at Oak Tree.

Six different tracks on six different dates will hold a combined 24 races, in which the winners will automatically qualify for the 2007 Cup at Monmouth in New Jersey. It’s a simple case of win and you’re in.

As Len DeLuca, ESPN’s senior vice president for programming and acquisitions, said this week, “There will be 20 football games on TV this weekend and only one Breeders’ Cup. We have the Super Bowl of horse racing, and we are going to give it wall-to-wall coverage.”

SIRIUS will have the entire day of racing on the radio side. “Down the Stretch,” hosted by Dave Johnson and Bill Finley, will air 10 a.m. to Noon Saturday live from Churchill Downs.

Johnson and Finley will then host SIRIUS’s live coverage of the Breeders’ Cup, with coverage airing exclusively on SIRIUS, channel 125.

23rd Breeder’s Cup

» Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.

» When: Noon, Saturday


Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. E-mail him at

No comments: