NBC Sports' broadcast of Smarty Jones' win in the 129th Preakness Stakes (gr. I) Saturday delivered a 6.1 national rating / 15 share for the full telecast, which is the best since 1990 and a 22% improvement over last year's 5.0/13, according to Nielsen Media Research. The 1990 Preakness, won by Summer Squall, generated a 7.2/21 national.
The Preakness was watched by 15 million people - a gain of 25 percent over the 12 million who watched Funny Cide's win a year ago, according to NBC Sports Research estimates.
"This is a tribute to the burgeoning popularity of Smarty Jones and an effort we began more than four years ago to elevate interest in the Visa Triple Crown," said Ken Schanzer, president of NBC Sports.
"Since we began broadcasting the Triple Crown in 2001, we've been privileged to attract the four largest audiences since 1990."
The rating peaked at an 8.6/21 from 6-6:30 p.m. ET as Smarty Jones won by a record margin of 11 1/2 lengths over Rock Hard Ten to before a record crowd of 112,668 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
The race segment (5:45-6:50 p.m. ET), delivered a 7.7/19, best since 1990's 7.9/23 and a 35% improvement over last year's 5.7/15. The pre-race segment (5-5:45 p.m. ET) generated a 3.8/10, 12% better than last year's 3.4/32.
A win June 5 at the Belmont Stakes (5:30 p.m. ET on NBC) will make Smarty Jones the first Visa Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, ending the sport's longest Triple Crown drought at 26 years.