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ESPN and horse race coverage

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  • ESPN and horse race coverage

    Just in the last week there were a flury of excuses as to why ESPN couldn't cover the Woodward with Rachel Alexandra (on top of having dropped the Haskell, also with her) - the excuses from NTRA flowed with such standard lines as "it takes months if not a year's worth of planning" and "NYRA already had agreements in place" and the ever present "it costs too much" to get a 30-minute show together. (About $250k per NTRA CEO Alex Waldrop)

    All valid - perhaps ... but WTF then is this news today of impending Santa Anita racing coverage on ESPN?

    DRF 9-14-09 "TV lineup set for Cup prep races"

    Zenyatta's attempt to run her record to 13 wins without a loss in the Oct. 10 Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita Park will be televised live on either ESPN or ESPN Classic as part of live television coverage of preps for the Breeders' Cup, the network and Breeders' Cup announced on Monday.

    The Lady's Secret will be broadcast live at 7:20 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 10 on ESPN if Zenyatta is scheduled to run in the race and is still undefeated. Her connections have announced the Lady's Secret as her next intended start.

    If Zenyatta does not start or is not still undefeated, then the Goodwood Stakes will be moved into the 7:20 slot, and the Lady's Secret will remain scheduled for 6:45. Mine That Bird, the Kentucky Derby winner, is pointing for the Goodwood as his final prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

    The 7:20 race will air live as part of ESPN's College Football Scoreboard Show, according to the announcement. The 6:45 race will air live as part of a two-hour broadcast on ESPN Classic that also includes coverage of the Turf Mile Stakes and Breeders' Futurity from Keeneland.
    No slight to Zenyatta but somehow suddenly ESPN is willing to cover her 13th start - and not only that but get creative with coverage tie-ins? And that is because - why? To see if she ties Personal Ensign's 13-0 record? Further if she doesn't run they'll still have coverage but just not that race but instead an prep race with Mine That Bird who "only maybe" will be there. Come on that is insane!

    I'm glad that ESPN has woken up to recall they are being entrusted the Breeders' Cup lead up and the actual event itself but you cannot whatsoever tell me that NYRA wasn't willing to play ball just as much as Santa Anita to get the Woodward on the air!

    NYRA has no exclusive deals and both TVG & HRTV carry the signal plus all the wagering outlets like youbet. ESPN, TVG & HRTV all carried the Travers Day races without any "turf" war despite that suggested whine by the NTRA of why they couldn't get a Woodward deal done.

    By comparison Santa Anita does have an exclusive live broadcast deal with HRTV.

    Frankly I think Rachel Alexandra's Woodward run had far more interest then Zenyatta's charge against lord knows what mares in the Lady's Secret Stakes. Not only that but the powers that be in the sport should have thought long and hard and said "well we can throw our market muscle and $$ behind a 4-yr with just 2 starts left in her career or a 3-yr old breaking history and with another year to go". There is no choice there and its a plain as day which option to choose!
    Last edited by Glimmerglass; Sep. 15, 2009, 10:28 AM. Reason: Doh: 13-0 was Personal Ensign not Lady Secret
  • Original Poster

    This is the aforementioned NTRA "ten thousand excuses" article by Eric Wing, Senior Director of Media Relations for the NTRA, as it pertains to not giving any coverage.

    So, well in advance the industry will sit down with ESPN and figure out first its schedule. Major Triple Crown preps or Breeders' Cup preps or races like the Haskell and Travers tend to be high on everyone’s lists. Less so, races like the Mother Goose or Woodward, which are great races but don’t often figure ahead of time to be as momentous as some others.
    And the G1 $300k Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a powerhouse?


    • #3
      But tell us how you really feel.

      This year the Woodward had exceptional significance -- but how much advance notice was there before we knew for sure Rachel would be in it? It wasn't that long ago we were still wondering Alabama? Travers? Woodward?

      It was ridiculous they didn't cover the Haskell. It was ridiculous that they didn't rally for the Woodward after having dropped the Haskell.

      But on that note, I am glad that there will be some racing on ESPN. I suspect they are trying to save face.

      Zenyatta's not too shabby. People do like to see her.


      • #4
        I hate ESPN's racing coverage. Jeanine Edwards' shrill voice and gushy attitude makes me want to jab red hot knitting needles into my ears, for one; I cringe whenever I see she's getting ready to interview someone.

        During the Triple Crown race card coverage - argh, if I have to look at one more damn celebrity I'll scream. I want horses and their connections. If I want celebrities, I can pick up a People magazine or watch Entertainment Tonight.

        And they'll pre-empt racing for anything. The Spelling Bee did it one year. And forget Saratoga - I haven't seen the Alabama Stakes live in years because it is ALWAYS shoved off the schedule for the Little League World Series. I honestly would not be shocked to see them drop coverage of the Breeder's Cup in favor of the World Musical Farting Championships.

        Kenny Mayne is the one bright spot. He doesn't know a damn thing about horses but doesn't pretend to, and he's always good for a laugh.


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by Mara View Post
          Kenny Mayne is the one bright spot. He doesn't know a damn thing about horses but doesn't pretend to, and he's always good for a laugh.
          He's not loved by all but at least he injects something different into the coverage. It can clearly be hit or miss:

          Video: Kenny's preview of the Belmont race 2008 - "There's a yearling grazing in the infield."

          Video: Kenny's proposed new TC title sponsor - "Bob do you ever think back about the $5M?"

          Back when ESPN was the a far better network and it was dominated by Syracuse University broadcast journalism grads - hence the 'Organge' mascot was in many ads.