“The Road to the Kentucky Derby,” a four-Saturday package of new-look televised stakes that stemmed from recommendations in the 2011 McKinsey and Company report, will begin March 24 with the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) from Turfway Park.
The stakes for 3-year-olds will be broadcast live during a telecast from 5-6 p.m. EDT on NBS Sports Network (formerly Versus). The network will also show the $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies from the northern Kentucky track.
The Jockey Club and partners are linking the television coverage with a social media campaign that began in early March. It includes videos—standard and off-the-wall subject matter—and a new website that focuses on “America’s Best Racing.”
Jason Wilson, vice president of business development for The Jockey Club, said March 20 the coverage will have “a lot faster pace” and employ various technology hooks such as the Trakus race-tracking system. The idea is to satisfy racing fans but also educate those without a strong knowledge base.
“We’re seeking more of an engaging experience,” Wilson said during an NTRA Communications media teleconference.
On March 31 NBC Sports Network will show the Florida Derby (gr. I) and Gulfstream Oaks from Gulfstream Park from 5-6 p.m. The April 7 program, from 4:30-6 p.m. on NBC will feature three grade I stakes: the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park, and the Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
The final program April 14 on CNBC from 6-7 p.m. will include the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby (both gr. I) from Oaklawn Park.
Laffit Pincay III will host the Spiral program. He will be joined by analysts Gary Stevens and Randy Moss, and reporters Donna Brothers, Jay Privman, and Millie Ball.
The video series created by Lexington-based advertising agency Cornett-IMS as part of #TheOtherMadness campaign is a blend of the traditional and non-traditional. Wilson said other sports frequently inject humor into coverage and advertising.
“The idea behind (the videos) is that rather than stick to the script of what we’ve been doing, we wanted to do something a little offbeat to catch the attention of those not in the industry,” he said. “We have been considered lacking in creativity, so we hope to show that we can be creative.”
The Jockey Club officials have said televised racing coverage has increased 67% since 2010. And for the first time in a long time, all national coverage from the Triple Crown through Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be on networks affiliated with NBC.
Wilson said the continuity of coverage of major benefit to the industry.
“It’s easier to be on one network,” he said. “We’re creating a critical mass of programming, and you can drive the dialogue a little bit better.”
Wilson also addressed the canceled HBO series "Luck" the media teleconference. He said whether the racing-related program was considered good or bad by viewers and racing fans, it generated a lot of attention, something horse racing needs to cultivate.
“When an opportunity like that comes our way we should figure out how to leverage it,” Wilson said. “We’re now creating an infrastructure to take advantage of those opportunities and better shape the messaging.”