Thursday, May 05, 2011

Kentucky Derby Preview from NBC

From NBC Sports -

NBC SPORTS GROUP PRESENTS UNPRECEDENTED COVERAGE OF THE 137th KENTUCKY DERBY

Oldest Continuous Sporting Event in the United States Contested Annually on the First Saturday in May

“This is one of the most wide open Kentucky Derby’s that any of us can remember.” – NBC Sports Group’s Tom Hammond

“It’s a wide-open race, and we could actually see a 50-1 shot win this.” – NBC Sports Group’s Gary Stevens

“It’s a dream come true.” NBC Sports Group’s Race Caller Larry Collmus on Calling the Kentucky Derby

“Put this on your bucket list. It’s a fantastic scene.” – NBC Sports Group’s Mike Battaglia on the Derby

NEW YORK – May 5, 2011
– It’s the First Saturday in May and that means it’s time for the Kentucky Derby. The NBC Sports Group broadcasts exclusive coverage of the 137th Derby this Saturday with coverage starting on VERSUS at 11 a.m. ET and culminating with the Run for the Roses on NBC starting at 4 p.m. ET.

COMMENTATORS: The NBC Sports Group coverage of the Kentucky Derby will once again feature co-hosts Bob Costas, who won his 22nd Emmy Award on Monday, and veteran NBC Sports commentator Tom Hammond; three-time Kentucky Derby winner Gary Stevens; contributing analysts/handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier; reporter Kenny Rice and on-track reporter Donna Brothers.

Added for this year’s expanded coverage are race caller Larry Collmus, the track announcer at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park who replaces Tom Durkin; Laffit Pincay, III, son of Hall-of-Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr., will host the coverage on VERSUS; veteran horse racing analyst Randy Moss; the Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman; TODAY Show’s Jenna Wolfe will contribute features; Access Hollywood’s Maria Menounos will handle celebrity interviews; and celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

NBC Sports conducted a conference call today with Hammond, Stevens, Collmus, Neumeier, Battaglia, Brothers and Rice. Below are quotes from the call:

HAMMOND ON THIS YEAR’S DERBY: “This is one of the most wide open Kentucky Derby’s that any of us can remember. Completely wide open and anybody can win it. That’s part of the charm, of course, of the Derby that a 50-1 shot can win it. That’s why it’s America’s race and why it has so much appeal to the viewers and to the people that come in person because it’s a whole pageant and it is the food, the fun, the drink, the hats and everything that goes with it. It’s become one of the mega sports events in America and I think it’s one of the must attend or must watch events on the American sports calendar.”

STEVENS ON THIS YEAR’S FIELD: “I can make a case for about 17 out of the 20 horses that if I was riding I would say, ‘Alright, I’m going to do this. This is how I can win the race,’ and not be out of line. It’s a wide-open race and we could actually see a 50-1 shot win this. I don’t think it will be Calvin Borel this year because Calvin is going to get a lot of action bet on him just because it’s Calvin going for his fourth Kentucky Derby in the last five years and it’s never been done before in this time period.”

COLLMUS ON HIS FIRST KENTUCKY DERBY: “It’s great to be the new guy on the scene here. I found out a couple of weeks ago that I’d be doing this and ever since there’s been a lot of excitement and phone calls from friends. But at the same time it’s a great time to start preparing for this. I’m looking forward to getting started with the VERSUS show today, calling a couple of races, calling the Kentucky Oaks on VERSUS tomorrow and of course the Turf Classic to kick off the Kentucky Derby broadcast. When it comes time to call the Kentucky Derby I’ve got to keep those nerves under check and get ready to do it. It’s a terrific thing for me to be a part of this great scene here at NBC.”

COLLMUS ON CALLING THE KENTUCKY DERBY:
“It is a dream come true…it really is. Since I started calling races at the age of 18, it’s the one thing an announcer dreams about is to be able to call the Kentucky Derby. And when I first got that phone call, I thought it was some sort of gag that somebody was playing on me because I had no idea that Tom Durkin was stepping down. Once I found that out that it was all for real, and this thing all came to be, it’s become just a complete thrill for me and I can’t wait for the Derby.”

COLLMUS ON TOM DURKIN: “Tom Durkin did the job so eloquently and amazingly over the years. I have some big shoes to fill.”

BATTAGLIA ON THE STORIES OF THIS YEAR’S KENTUCKY DERBY: “There are so many great stories with Kathy Ritvo, the Louisville native with a heart transplant. The stories about Uncle Mo, and is he right physically? Every year is different.”

BATTAGLIA ON HANDICAPPING THIS YEAR’S RACE
: “This is my 40th straight Derby and the fact that there are 20 horses in here makes it so much tougher to handicap, so much tougher to call, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It makes it unique.”

BATTAGLIA ON COMING TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY
: “It’s something that if you haven’t been here you better make plans to come. Put this on your bucket list. It’s a fantastic scene.”

NEUMEIER ON THIS YEAR’S FIELD:
“What’s remarkable about this Derby to me is I’ve probably asked 100 trainers, guys that talk horses, guys that can speak figures, ‘Who do you like? Who do you like? Who do you like?’ And they all say the same thing, ‘I don’t know,’ which makes it interesting.”

BROTHERS ON HER INTERVIEW TOMORROW WITH AL ROKER (ON THE TODAY SHOW; LAST YEAR, SHE FELL OFF HER HORSE):
“Well, hopefully I won’t create another YouTube video tomorrow morning on with Al Roker and fall off my horse again. I’ll do the best that I can there.”

BROTHERS ON PREPARING FOR HER POST-RACE INTERVIEW
: “Typically I have to have really good information on about five of the jockeys and the connections because those are the big stories, maybe five to 10. The other 10 I can be prepared by just saying, “You’ve just won the upset today,” and go from there. I’m not going to be able to have that luxury this year. This year I’m going to actually have 20 different types of questions formatted for the jockeys. It makes my job a lot tougher, but who cares, it also makes it way more interesting. I think it’s going to be exciting and I’ll be as excited as anybody to find out who I’m going to be talking to after the race.”

RICE ON THE POPULARITY OF THE KENTUCKY DERBY: “In other sports that I do, you can mention you do the Kentucky Derby and everybody knows immediately. It’s one the few iconic sports events. You don’t have to explain the Kentucky Derby. I have friends that grew up in Kentucky that really don’t watch horse racing, but they watch the Kentucky Derby. So that always makes its interesting because they watch for the stories.”

RICE ON THE “WALK-OVER”
: “The walk-over is always one of the most special things no matter how many times you’ve done it. I’ve done it for a decade now and when you look up at the grandstands and look over at the infield there are 150,000 people and you see the trainers – even trainers that have done this for twenty years – you can see there’s emotion in their face. It’s one of the few moments I think that always stands out. The walk-over is a special moment.”

STEVENS ON PRODUCER FRED GAUDELLI: “He has embraced this and spent a lot of time doing film, watching race coverage. It’s refreshing.”

STEVENS ON RACE SIMULATION
: “We are doing a brief simulation, a virtual race, prior to. And I’ve kind of put myself on the line. What I’ve done is picked out five horses in the race and where I think they’re going to be throughout the running of the race. It’s really unique and it will give the fan at some least some kind of idea of where these horses will be. I didn’t want to pick a winner but if they ‘held a gun to my head’ and I had to pick a winner… You’ll get to see that on Saturday afternoon. I’m not going to tell you who it is right now but it is a close finish.”

NBC SPORTS GROUP KENTUCKY DERBY COVERAGE (All Times ET):

KENTUCKY DERBY
Today, Derby Classics – Barbaro, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Today, Live from Churchill Downs, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Tomorrow, Derby Classics – Mine That Bird, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Tomorrow, Kentucky Oaks, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Saturday, Live from Churchill Downs, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., VERSUS
Saturday, Kentucky Derby, 4-7 p.m., NBC
Saturday, Kentucky Derby Wrap-up, 7-7:30 p.m., VERSUS

PRODUCTION TEAM:
The coverage on NBC will be produced by Fred Gaudelli and directed by Drew Esocoff, NBC Sports’ Emmy Award-winning “Sunday Night Football” production team. VERSUS’ coverage is being produced by Rob Hyland, who has worked on the network’s horse racing coverage since 2001 and also produces NBC Sports’ Notre Dame Football, and directed by “NHL on NBC” director Jeff Simon. The executive producer of NBC Sports and VERSUS is Sam Flood, who has produced 11 Triple Crown races for the network.

NBC SPORTS DIGITAL AT THE DERBY:
For the first time ever, the Kentucky Derby will be streamed live on NBCSports.com. In addition to the NBC broadcast of the race, viewers can choose from up to four different camera angels, similar to the experience of “Sunday Night Football” Extra. Additionally, there will be:

Live Twitter feeds from horse racing experts, trainers, owners and many more aggregated together in the Kentucky Derby player on NBCSports.com.
Online-only analysis with NBC Sports Group horse racing experts.

NBC SPORTS GROUP SOCIAL MEDIA AT THE DERBY: “Like” NBC Sports on Facebook and follow @nbc_sports for all things Derby on NBC Sports and VERSUS

#DerbyonNBC: This hashtag will be utilized for all NBC Sports and VERSUS Derby related content throughout Derby Week on Twitter.

Derby All-Access: NBC Sports will implement its “Sunday Night Football All-Access” social media strategy for Derby week on both NBC Sports and VERSUS. A digital producer will be on-site for behind the scenes content including photos, video and news from the Draw Show to the morning workouts to the Red Carpet and more.

Broadcast Integration:
NBC Sports and VERSUS is integrating social media throughout the week. It began with the Draw Show on VERSUS on Wednesday and will continue throughout Derby Day coverage. Fans on Facebook and Twitter have been encouraged to submit photos of their Derby Day hats, ask questions to the talent and participate in polls on Facebook where there feedback will be featured throughout the Derby week coverage.

DERBY DREAM BET: A Chicago man has won a chance to place a life-changing $100,000 win bet in Saturday’s 137th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.

Dave Flores, who lives in the Southside of Chicago, was randomly drawn to place the free wager in conjunction with the $100,000 Derby Dream Bet Sweepstakes, which was offered for the second consecutive year thanks to a partnership between Churchill Downs and NBC Sports. A year ago, Glen Fullerton of Houston, Texas won $900,000 when Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby at odds of 8-1.

Flores says he “never misses” the Kentucky Derby, and estimates that he’s attended the race at least 20 times. This year, he’ll have a VIP trip for two to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks (includes airfare, lodging and ground transportation) and the chance to place a $100,000 win bet on any horse in the Kentucky Derby. If the horse wins, Flores will keep the winnings, just as Fullerton did a year ago.

Flores, who met his fiancé, a Louisville native, at the Kentucky Oaks four years ago, works in a metal manufacturing shop. When notified about winning the opportunity to place the $100,000 Derby Dream Bet, he thought it was a prank.

KENNY RICE ON THE DERBY DREAM BET WINNER: “I will talk with the guy (on NBC’s broadcast) who’s going to make the $100,000 dollar bet. Last year a man did it and won $900,000. I’ll be talking to the guy that won the $900,000 last year and see if has any tips for the guy trying to win maybe more than that this year considering I don’t think there is going to be a strong favorite.”

NBC SPORTS AND HORSE RACING: The NBC Sports Group is now the exclusive home to Horse Racing’s Triple Crown. This marks the first time that all three races will be on one network since NBC last aired the Triple Crown in 2005. NBC has been the exclusive home of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes since 2001.

KENTUCKY DERBY: In the 10 years that Churchill Downs and NBC Sports have been together the event has experienced remarkable growth. The Kentucky Derby is now seen by 7.4 million more viewers than the last Kentucky Derby broadcast by ABC in 2000 (16.5 million vs. 9.1 million, up 51 percent).

The shared vision of Churchill Downs and NBC Sports’ successful ‘Big Event Strategy’ to assemble the broadest possible audience led to the 2010 Kentucky Derby being the most-watched Kentucky Derby in 21 years, in addition to the year prior which was the most-watched Derby in 20 years. Last year’s Kentucky Derby averaged 16.5 million viewers, the most watched Kentucky Derby since 1989 when Sunday Silence won the Derby (18.5 million).

Since its involvement in the Triple Crown, NBC Sports has been honored with 11 Eclipse Awards for its thoroughbred racing coverage, Preakness (2002-03-05-06-08), Kentucky Derby (2007), Belmont (2004) and Breeder's Cup (2001). Additionally, NBC Sports has won three Eclipse Awards in the features category: 2002 on War Emblem (Preakness broadcast), 2005 Afleet Alex (Kentucky Derby broadcast) and 2009 Mine That Bird (Preakness broadcast), and the 2005 and 2006 Preakness broadcasts were nominated for the Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Live Sports Special.

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