by Michael Fenrich
Horse racing has been a family affair for Joe Tessitore, who will host two days of Breeders’ Cup coverage Nov. 4-5 on the ESPN networks and ABC.
The sportscaster grew up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where his family would frequent Saratoga racetrack.
“I sit at the same table in the Turf Terrace in the clubhouse that my family has used since 1961,” Tessitore said. “It’s very special to me.”
Tessitore, who also announces NCAA football and boxing on ESPN, said that, based on his observations of horse racing, the sport needs a mindset change.
“Tracks should get out of their sheltered world,” Tessitore said. “The reality of the economic model is that they worry about their (pari-mutuel) handle. The sport is filled with small independent nations that only care about their own bottom line.
“The sport should reach out to the masses like the NFL, college football, and NBA do. The sport barely knows the sports media beyond its world, and that is harmful to the long-term health and welfare of the game.”
Tessitore is a producer for an ESPN “30 for 30” film that will air in Nov. 8. The film, “Roll Tide/War Eagle,” focused on the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn.
Tessitore said there is a lot of preparation that goes into horse racing and college football coverage, not just for few weeks but year-round. He studies past performances for horse racing, and in college football Tessitore meets with coaches and studies rosters.
As for his job as a sportscaster, he said: “Know how to write and story-tell.” Tessitore said the new generation “grew up on highlights and channel-surfing,” but that doesn’t mean the content can’t be compelling.
On Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup coverage will begin at 4 p.m. EDT on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Six World Championships races will be shown, concluding with the Ladies’ Classic (gr. I).
On Nov. 5 coverage will be at 2 p.m. on ABC, then move to ESPN and ESPN3 from 3:30-7:15 p.m. Eight Cup races will be shown, with the Classic (gr. I) scheduled for 7 p.m.
“The whole scene was beyond belief; the collective gasp by the thousands there will forever be in my memory,” Tessitore said. “Later that night I saw Mike Smith on the elevator and all of the emotion was still pulsing through him. It was most amazing sporting event I have ever witnessed.”