Retired Racing Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who will be part of the broadcast team at this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships from Santa Anita Park, sees an opportunity to promote the sport as a marquee race moves to primetime on network television.
The Breeders' Cup World Championships will return to NBC Sports Group this year and the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) will be broadcast in primetime on NBC.
"It's the first time ever that this has happened. It's a huge shot in the arm not only for NBC, but in my opinion, for the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing for all of the players to be showcased in primetime," Stevens said. "That's been the goal since there's been television to actually have a primetime horse racing event. Fortunately we have that this year. It's going to showcase the stars that we have in this sport. It needed to be done for a long time and this is the perfect venue to do it."
Stevens will team with host Tom Hammond, who was a reporter on the first Breeders' Cup broadcast for NBC in 1984, and racing analyst Randy Moss. Stevens said the riders who will be showcased in the Classic are well aware of the opportunity to promote horse racing to a primetime audience.
"Jockeys are a lot more educated today than we were back in the day in the area of marketing. They are the familiar faces. Unfortunately our horses, because of injury or early retirement because of their breeding value, it's tough for the fans to relate to the top horses over time. There's only one Zenyatta that comes along in a lifetime," Stevens said. "But these jockeys are stars of the show, along with the horses. You see these guys at most of the big races, especially the Breeders' Cup."
The Classic broadcast will wrap up 9 1/2 hours of Breeders' Cup television coverage beginning Nov. 2 from 4 to 8 p.m. EDT on NBC Sports Network and followed on Nov. 3 from 3:30 to 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Network. The day will end with the hour-long broadcast of the Classic on NBC as the Breeders' Cup returns to NBC for the first time since 2005.
Producer Rob Hyland anticipates a beautiful late afternoon backdrop for the Breeders' Cup Classic and expects plenty of daylight for the race, scheduled to start at approximately 8:35 p.m. EDT. With the inner training path at Santa Anita, NBC plans to use a camera mounted in a truck to track horses through the backstretch, which he believes will offer some exciting live shots and replays.
Also contributing to the broadcast team will be Racing Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, analysts/handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier; host/reporter Laffit Pincay III; reporters Kenny Rice, Donna Brothers, Jay Privman, and Nick Luck, who is making his NBC Sports Group debut; and Larry Collmus, who will call the Breeders' Cup Classic and Ladies' Classic (gr. I). NBC will take the call of track announcer Trevor Denman for the remaining races over the two days.
Additionally, NBC Sports and Access Hollywood's Michelle Beadle will be on site to capture the spectacle and scene of the Breeders' Cup, as well as contributing features and handling celebrity interviews.