Anne M. Eberhardt

NBC Sports, HRTV Take TV Eclipse Awards

Kentucky Derby coverage, documentary feature cited for their exceptional work.

NBC Sports and HRTV will be honored Jan. 18 with Eclipse Award trophies for exceptional work in live television coverage and television features, respectively.

NBC Sports picks up its 10th Media Eclipse Award in the live television category for its 2 1/2-hour telecast of the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), culminating with the victory by Orb  for industry stalwarts Stuart Janney III and Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps and veteran trainer Shug McGaughey.

HRTV has won its fifth Eclipse Award for productions appearing on the network and its third award for programs that were written and produced by HRTV. The horse sports network won the 2013 Eclipse for its documentary "HRTV Presents: Saratoga WarHorse." The documentary provided an in-depth look at the work of a foundation taking a leading role in assisting struggling war veterans and their extraordinary relationship therapy with recently retired Thoroughbreds.

The 43rd Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony will be held at Gulfstream Park Racetrack and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The Eclipse Awards are presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders' Cup, and The Stronach Group, and produced by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The Derby broadcast coverage delivered an array of race reporting and insightful background stories on many of the 19 starters in the race. NBC incorporated celebrity interviews with stars of movies and television from a vantage point overlooking more than 150,000 in attendance on a rain-soaked afternoon.

"The Kentucky Derby is one of America's greatest sporting events. With 50 cameras and a production team of more than 200 dedicated men and women, we produce the Derby as a big event," said NBC Sports Group coordinating producer Rob Hyland. "Our production team did an excellent job telling the stories of the 139th Kentucky Derby. I am extremely proud of the high standards and passion our entire production team has for this sport and we are honored to win this prestigious award."

Supporting the live production, NBC also incorporated pre-race segments featuring Gary Stevens interviewed by Bob Costas about leaving the broadcast booth to return to racing at age 50, and a profile of Kevin Krigger, rider of Goldencents , in his quest to become the first African American jockey to win the Derby since 1902.

In addition to Hyland, as producer, the Derby telecast was directed by Drew Esocoff.  Tom Hammond and Costas hosted the program and were joined by analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey. Laffit Pincay, Jay Privman, Kenny Rice, and Donna Brothers were the reporters. Bob Neumeier and Mike Battaglia provided handicapping information and analysis, and Larry Collmus called the race.

The Saratoga WarHorse Foundation and facility in upstate New York has taken a leading role in assisting struggling war veterans through the debilitating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well lingering serious issues related to suicidal thoughts and sleeplessness. HRTV examined this three-day program through revealing interviews and the stories behind the emotional attachment between veterans and horses. Among the most poignant moments in the piece was a Thoroughbred, after walking numerous times around a circular metal pen, gaining trust in the veteran and voluntarily walking up to him and creating an equine-human connection. The 30-minute program, produced by Stacie Clark-Rogers, aired Nov. 2.

"It's a terrific honor to win this award," said Clark-Rogers, who filmed the documentary over a five-day period last summer in Saratoga. "We take it for granted what these hoses do for us. You see Zenyatta and Mucho Macho Man  giving us a high-energy  moment on the racetrack, but the experience these retired horses provide the veterans is so simple, and observing that experience  plugs you back into reality.  It's not a cure, but it gives the veteran a light at the end of the tunnel." 

Amy Zimmerman was executive producer and writer of "Saratoga WarHorse." Steve Scheilder was co-producer and editor. Jose "Joe Chile" Ibarra was the principal videographer.

Honorable mention in the National Television - Live Programming category also went to NBC Sports for its live broadcast of the Breeders' Cup World Championships from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., which aired Nov. 2.

Honorable mention in the National Television - Live Programming category also went to HRTV for "Inside Information: Dancer's Image," a documentary examining the events and controversy surrounding the1968 Kentucky Derby, which aired July 14.