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Skip Dickstein

ESPN Wins TV Eclipse Award for BC Telecast

This is the second straight Eclipse Award in the live television category for ESPN.

ESPN has won the Media Eclipse Award for television – live racing programming for its telecast of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

The Breeders’ Cup program, which culminated with the dramatic battle between Blame  and Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), aired on ABC and ESPN and ESPN2 Nov. 5-6. Mike McQuade was coordinating producer.

This is the second consecutive Media Eclipse Award in the live television category for ESPN, which won the award in 2009 for its telecast of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) that was shown on ABC.

“We are extremely proud to win this award for the second consecutive year,” said McQuade, vice president of event production for ESPN, in a release. “Our team does horse racing as well as anyone in the industry. We are blessed with a crew that is dedicated to putting together a terrific production of the races, but also bringing viewers closer to the action as never before.

The telecast was produced by David Ceisler and directed by Doug Holmes. Joe Tessitore hosted the program. He was joined by analysts Randy Moss, Kenny Mayne, and Jerry Bailey. Jeannine Edwards, Jay Privman, Caton Bredar, Steve Cyphers, and Jeremy Schaap were the reporters, and Hank Goldberg was the handicapper.

The main focus of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup program was the attempt by the 6-year-old mare Zenyatta to retire a perfect 20-for-20 with a repeat victory in the $5 million Classic against her strongest competition today date, coupled with the national attention she had garnered over the past three years. “She had turned the Breeders’ Cup into a cultural event, not just a sporting event,” said McQuade. “We tried to bring out the formidable task she faced that day by preparing the viewer with stories and information on all 11 horses in the Classic.”

In between the live telecast of 14 races over the two days of the Championships, the program included poignant features on the closeness between Zenyatta and her jockey Mike Smith, and a segment on Classic contender Quality Road  who returned successfully to competition following his scratch at the gate in the 2009 running.

The final 45 minutes of the Nov. 6 telecast were commercial free. In the last stages of Zenyatta’s walkover to be saddled for the Classic, the ESPN announcer team went silent  as she paraded up the paddock runway and entered her stall to just the  loud cheers of the crowd from all directions. “She was the star of the show, not us,” said McQuade. “We felt letting the scene play for itself was the best way to get the viewer to be as close to that moment as possible.”

For the running of the Classic itself, McQuade credits his production team for keeping the shots simple and reducing the number of cuts to a minimum. ESPN also utilized a second extra slow motion camera facing the finish line that defined Blame’s short victory over Zenyatta. That shot replayed over and over during the next several days in the national spotlight.

Judges for the national television – live racing category were: Chris Svendsen of CBS Sports; Stan Isaacs, former Newsday sports television columnist, and Howard Sudberry, former sports director for WBBM-TV in Chicago.

Honorable mention went to NBC Sports for its live telecast of the Preakness Stakes from Baltimore, Md., which aired May 15. Sam Flood was executive producer.