The "cast" of GSN's American Dream Derby.

The "cast" of GSN's American Dream Derby.

Larsen & Talbert

Racing Reality Series Premieres Jan. 10

If you can't relate to eating bugs on some island you can't pronounce or selling chocolate bars on the street in order to win a high-powered job with Donald Trump, there finally is a reality TV series you can relate to, and that is "American Dream Derby," which premieres Monday Jan. 10 on the Game Show Network.

If you've ever placed a bet, worked around Thoroughbreds or dreamed of owning your own stable, then there is something for you in this new eight-episode reality series that takes you behind the scenes of the racetrack and the backstretch. Even if you love horses, but are scared to death of them, you'll be able to relate to the fear and ineptitude of some of the contestants.

In short, there are 12 contestants, ranging from students, a stunt woman, a model, a graphic artist, a pharmacist, a massage therapist, a music producer, and a correctional officer. One common bond most of them have is a love of horses and/or horse racing. Several, however, had no prior experience with either.

Sharing the spotlight with the contestants are 15 Thoroughbred racehorses, all primed and ready to race. Serving as a link between the humans and horses, and barking out orders and wake-up calls, is none other than trainer Alex Hassinger, a three-time Breeders' Cup winner. The host is veteran TV personality Steve Santagati, who has appeared in over 70 national and international television commercials, and has hosted several other TV shows. Providing the musical entertainment throughout is country singer LeAnn Rimes.

The winner, who receives $250,000 and his or her own stable of Thoroughbreds, is determined by who escapes elimination and accumulates the biggest bankroll at the end of the final episode. By the beginning of the seventh episode, six of the contestants will still remain, but by the end of the episode that number will down to three (the "Win," "Place," and "Show" positions). Then, five of the eliminated contestants will be voted back in by the viewers and will gain entry into the final race (televised live from Santa Anita) as "Long Shots." In the final race to determine the winner, the Win, Place, and Show contestants will get the first three picks, in that order. Of the contestants voted back in, the one who receives the most votes from the viewers gets the fourth pick, and so on.

The live First Annual American Dream Derby Stakes will be shown on President's Day, Feb. 21.

Briefly, here's what you can expect in the opening episode. The contestants are all summoned to the winner's circle at Santa Anita, where they are given a bankroll of money and asked to place bets on a particular race on that day's card. The person who wins the most money gets to be an "Owner" and selects three others to spend that night living in a mansion and enjoying all its luxuries. The others are designated as "Stable Hands," and must sleep on cots in the barn with the 15 horses, two in a tack room, with no heat.

The following morning they are awakened at the crack of dawn to participate in a not-so-pleasant challenge involving horse manure. Without divulging too much more, other little twists follow, and the episode concludes with two of the contestants facing each other in a "guts match."

In the guts match, each person selects one of the 15 horses, and gets to ask Hassinger one question about any of the horses. The two horses chosen then compete in a two-furlong match race. The person who has the winner receives $5,000 to his or her "purse" (with the others wagering on the person/horse they think will win), while the loser is eliminated from the game.

The contestants are a diverse group, some with experience around horses and others petrified of them or totally clueless, which provides for some humorous moments. All in all, it looks to be a fun show, and you'll certainly learn about horses and stable life.