"NTRA Road to the Kentucky Derby" culminates 2 1/2-hours of two-network live racing coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. with a one-hour telecast of "CITGO Racing to the Kentucky Derby" on ESPN. The ESPN program will present live coverage of the Wood Memorial. The 1 1/8-miles Blue Grass is shaping up as the toughest Derby Prep of the year. The morning line favorite is the Patrick Biancone-trained Lion Heart, who was second in the San Rafael after posting an undefeated juvenile campaign. Trainer Nick Zito has entered a pair of horses, Birdstone, winner of last year's Champagne Stakes (gr. I), and The Cliff's Edge, coming off a third-place finish in the Florida Derby (gr. I). Also running is the Richard Mandella-trained Action This Day, winner of the 2003 Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and last year's Eclipse Award winner as top juvenile; the Bob Baffert-trained Preachinatthebar, who won the San Rafael (gr. II); Limehouse, the Todd Pletcher trainee who won the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III); Mustanfar, who was second in that race; Breakaway; and That's an Outrage. A field of 10 is expected in the 1 1/8 miles Arkansas Derby, headed by the undefeated (5-for-5) Smarty Jones, winner of the Rebel Stakes his last time out. As part of Oaklawn's Centennial celebration, the track will award a $5 million bonus to any horse who wins the Rebel, the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby, giving Smarty Jones a chance for a really big payoff. Expected to challenge Smarty Jones is Rebel Stakes runner-up Purge, Louisiana Derby (gr. II) runner-up Borrego, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Hasslefree, Pro Prado, Mr. Jester, Shadowland, Mambo Train, Harvard Avenue and Tricky Taboo.
With the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) only three weeks away, NBC Sports kicks off coverage of horseracing's 3-year-old picture on Saturday, with the 90-minute telecast of "NTRA Road to the Kentucky Derby." The show will air from 4:30-6:00 p.m. (est) and will feature live coverage of the, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) from Keeneland and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. II) from Oaklawn Park. Also slated for the show is a recap of the $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), run earlier in the day at Aqueduct, and a comprehensive preview of the upcoming Run for the Roses. Saturday's telecast will feature NBC's Triple Crown broadcast lineup: host Tom Hammond, analyst Mike Battaglia, commentator Charlsie Cantey and reporter Donna Barton Brothers at Keeneland; reporter Kenny Rice at Oaklawn; and analyst Bob Neumeier at Aqueduct. In addition to covering the races, the show will present highlights of the 2004 Triple Crown prep season and preview the May 1 Run for the Roses.