Friday, November 03, 2006

Super Bowl of horse racing gallops to cable this weekend

Jim Williams, The Examiner
Nov 3, 2006 5:00 AM (2 hrs 32 mins ago)
Current rank: #2 of 6,262 articles

WASHINGTON - Football fans have the Super Bowl. Baseball fans have the World Series. Hockey fans have the Stanley Cup.

Horse racing fans have the Breeders’ Cup.

You can bet the many horse racing fans in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. will be glued to the TV set this weekend.

On Saturday from Churchill Downs, ESPN will devote over seven hours on a huge college football afternoon to the 23rd annual Breeders’ Cup. It’s 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 before the move to ESPN.

It all begins at high noon with the first of eight races that feature a combined one-day purse of a staggering $20 million in prize money.

The $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic will cap the day with post time set for 5:20 p.m.

In the past few years, ESPN has quickly established itself as the leader in thoroughbred racing with more hours dedicated to races and shows promoting the sport than any other major network. They are also adding to their coverage going forward in an attempt to spur interest in the sport.

ESPN’s Cup qualifying starts next July at Saratoga and runs through through October. There will be six different events tracks and a combined 24 races long the way. The winners automatically qualify for the 2007 Cup at Monmouth in New Jersey.

It is a simple case of win and you are 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.

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

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