Kentucky Derby Winner Animal Kingdom Headlines Field in Middle Jewel of Horse Racing’s Triple Crown
NBC Sports Group’s Triple Crown Coverage Continues with the Belmont Stakes June 11
“I think he will win here. He’s the best horse and I think he’s in a good spot.” – NBC Sports’ Mike Battaglia on Animal Kingdom
“Absolutely. Totally.” – NBC Sports’ Neumeier on if Animal Kingdom can challenge for the Triple Crown
NEW YORK – May 19, 2011 – Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom leads the field as the NBC Sports Group presents 6½ hours of coverage of the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md., beginning tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET on VERSUS and culminating with the Preakness Stakes Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
With a win Saturday at the Preakness, Animal Kingdom will head to the Belmont in hopes of becoming the first to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed, with jockey Steve Cauthen, in 1978. NBC Sports Group coverage of the Belmont Stakes begins Friday, June 10.
COMMENTATORS: NBC Sports coverage of the 136th Preakness Stakes is co-hosted by Bob Costas and Tom Hammond alongside two-time Preakness winner Gary Stevens. NBC Sports’ broadcast team also includes race-caller and Baltimore native Larry Collmus; 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 Laffit Pincay, III, son of Hall-of-Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr., to host the coverage on VERSUS; veteran horse racing analyst Randy Moss; and the Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman.
FEATURES AND STORYLINES: The features NBC Sports Group is preparing for its Preakness coverage include:
- A look at Animal Kingdom trainer Graham Motion.
- Bob Costas live interview with Animal Kingdom owner Barry Irwin.
- Norman Asbjornson trainer Chris Grove, a trainer with Maryland roots and a touching family story. His father, a former jockey, is the Maryland state racing steward and his 12-year old Noah son lost his leg to bone cancer at age four.
- Dialed In – with a win in the Preakness, the horse will earn the biggest payday in North American racing history ($6.1 million).
- Jockey Robby Alborado and his difficult Derby week.
PRODUCTION TEAM: The coverage of the Preakness Stakes will be produced by Fred Gaudelli and directed by Drew Esocoff, NBC Sports’ Emmy Award-winning “Sunday Night Football” production team. The VERSUS coverage will be 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.
PREAKNESS STAKES ON THE NBC SPORTS GROUP
Tomorrow, Preakness Classics, 3-4 p.m., VERSUS
Tomorrow, Black Eyed Susan Stakes, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
- Will also air the Ms. Preakness Pink Warrior
Saturday, Live from Pimlico, 2:30-4:30 p.m., VERSUS
- Including races 8, 9, 10 LIVE
Sat. May 21, Preakness Stakes, 4:30-6:30 p.m., NBC
Sat. May 21, Preakness Wrap-up, 6:30-7 p.m., VERSUS
NBC Sports handicappers Neumeier and Battaglia, who correctly picked Animal Kingdom to win the Kentucky Derby, provided their thoughts on the Preakness in separate interviews and surprisingly came to similar conclusions about the race. Their answers are below:
THE PREAKNESS ACCORDING TO NEUMEIER: “Animal Kingdom should be the favorite based on a sensational performance in the Kentucky Derby, and the only real question about him is, can he bounce back with a short 14 day period? I think that his job will be easier than the Derby because the field is smaller, and because there’s more front speed to line up for him to shoot at. The addition of Flashpoint, who’s a front-runner, and Dance City, along with Shackleford, will ensure a rapid pace that should be favorable to Animal Kingdom’s running style.
THE PREAKNESS ACCORDING BATTAGLIA: “I think there’s actually more speed, more early speed, in the Preakness than the Derby because of Flashpoint. It looks to me like Flashpoint, going from the three hole, will have to go in the front and Shackleford, who made the pace in the Derby, he’s going to try to probably start out second or third in this one instead of going out and running and getting ahead. The race sets up great for another late run by Animal Kingdom. He was so impressive in the Derby that I think it comes down to, ‘will he handle the track here at Pimlico?’ If he does, I think he ought to win. “
BATTAGLIA ON ANIMAL KINGDOM’S AT THE PREAKNESS: “I think he will win here. He’s the best horse and I think he’s in a good spot.
NEUMEIER ON WHO CAN CHALLENGE ANIMAL KINGDOM: “There are a number of other newcomers that should be respected. First and foremost, I think Sway Away, who comes out of the Arkansas Derby and that has proven to be one of the best preps, is going to be in a mid-pack position. The question is, can he finish strongly? Mucho Macho Man, great story in the Derby and ran very, very well and he would be my second choice. Our reports are that the horse looks great. Dialed In ran a decent final 1/8 and will benefit from the pace that appears to be very hot in the race. I would say it’s Animal Kingdom’s race to lose and my next two would be Sway Way and/or Mucho Macho Man.”
BATTAGLIA ON WHO CAN CHALLENGE ANIMAL KINGDOM: “It’s hard to leave Dialed In out. Even though he didn’t hit the bullet in the Derby, I think that he can bounce back. I like the Derby horses. I like Mucho Macho Man and Shackleford and I think those are the ones that I’m kind of going to key in on. Maybe Dance City for the one new shooter, but the horses coming out of the Derby, I think will run well again.”
BATTAGLIA ON DANCE CITY: “He comes out of the Arkansas Derby and Nehro only beat him a length and a half. He was reluctant at the gate that day and was causing all kinds of problems at the gate and got into a little bit of trouble. He doesn’t need to be in front; although he is a speed horse, but you always have to respect Pletcher when he brings one of these horses in and of the new shooters I think he’s probably the best new shooter to run well.”
CAN ANIMAL KINGDOM WIN THE TRIPLE CROWN?
BATTAGLIA: “You never know about that mile-and-a-half and coming back. That’s a tough thing to do to come back with the third leg of the Triple Crown. Belmont Park is a completely different type of track. They call it big sandy for a reason and we’ve seen a lot of Triple Crown hopes dashed there, so it’s definitely not going to be an easy task for him to win the Triple Crown. I definitely think he’s got a shot because I think he’s going to win this week and we just have to see how he comes up to Belmont, but I definitely think he’s got a shot.”
NEUMEIER: “Absolutely. Totally. His race in the Derby was sensational. Every speed figure measurer gave that a very strong number. We’ll see what the Preakness number is if he wins there. Should Animal Kingdom win the Preakness then you have a situation where he’s running for history and it would be an amazing story and he would be a major threat for a Triple Crown.”
NEUMEIER ON ANIMAL KINGDOM SHIPPING TO PIMLICO ON SATURDAY MORNING: “This is Graham Motion’s home. He trains about an hour from Pimlico. At the Preakness, all of the Stakes horses are in that one barn, so there’s a lot of commotion in that one barn, trainers, owners, press who are working at that barn so there’s a tremendous amount of attention that’s focused on that one area which the Stakes barn area at the Preakness. Had Motion come in here with Animal Kingdom Tuesday or Wednesday there’d be fuss, attention and distractions maybe for him and the horse. Hopefully he won’t get a flat tire and there will be little traffic.”
BATTAGLIA ON ANIMAL KINGDOM SHIPPING TO PIMLICO ON SATURDAY MORNING: “I think Graham Motion really knows what he’s doing. He’s keeping him comfortable. Of course we’d like to see him in that number one stall, but I think Graham is doing the right thing and you can’t fault him for that at all. He’s going to ship him the day of the race and horses do that all the time. It’s not big deal at all and I think he’s doing the right thing there.”
PREAKNESS A RATINGS SUCCESS ON NBC:
Since NBC Sports began broadcasting the Preakness in 2001, every Preakness telecast on NBC over that period attracted more viewers than any Preakness telecast on ABC in the previous seven years. Viewership for the Preakness is up an average of 69% in the 10 years on NBC compared to the previous seven years on ABC.
Link to the past 10 years of the Preakness Stakes on NBC Sports: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/22825103/vp/24467851#24467851
PREAKNESS ON NBC (2001-2010)
2010 8.4 million
2009 10.9 million
2008 7.9 million
2007 8.4 million
2006 10.1 million
2005 9.3 million
2004 11.6 million
2003 8.6 million
2002 9.2 million
2001 8.7 million
PREAKNESS ON ABC (1993-2000)
2000 5.5 million
1999 4.9 million
1998 5.2 million
1997 6.9 million
1996 5.1 million
1995 4.7 million
1994 6.5 million
1993 7.0 million
14.5 MILLION WATCH KENTUCKY DERBY: NBC Sports’ coverage of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby drew 14.54 million viewers, the fourth most-watched Kentucky Derby in 21 years. Since implementing NBC’s Big Event Strategy, the last three Kentucky Derby races have recorded at least 14.5 million viewers including last year’s Derby, which was the most-watched for the event in 22 years.
NBC Sports coverage of the Kentucky Derby over the last 11 years averages more than 2½ million more viewers than the previous 11 Kentucky Derby broadcasts on ABC (14.1 million vs.11.5 million, up 23 percent).
Link to NBC Sports’ coverage of the Kentucky Derby and hear Larry Collmus call the race: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/22825103/vp/42944611#42944611
STREAM THE PREAKNESS LIVE ON NBCSPORTS.COM: NBCSports.com for the first time ever will provide live streaming of the Preakness Stakes. In addition to hearing Larry Collmus’ race call live, users can choose to watch Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom on an isolated camera.
“HEALTHY WEEK” ON NBCUNIVERSAL: NBC Sports kicks off NBCUniversal’s second annual “Healthy Week” this weekend during NBC Sports’ broadcast of the Preakness Stakes. The “Healthy” feature will profile how jockeys stay fit and in shape for their sport.
As part of its company-wide health initiative, “Healthy at NBCU,” designed to inform and activate audiences around health and wellness. “Healthy Week” leverages the breadth of trusted names and brands across the NBCUniversal portfolio to provide consumers with today’s most pressing health-related news, and encourage them to adopt healthier habits in their daily routine.