The Breeders' Cup will be returning to the NBC family of networks starting this November after its recent run on ESPN. NBC had been the original network of the Breeders' Cup, starting with the event's inception in 1984 through 2005. While the return of the main event to its original home is tremendous, the real benefit to the racing industry is the fact that NBC or NBC Sports Network will now have approximately 56 hours of horse racing coverage in 2012.
That is a marked increase over what we have seen in the past from ESPN during their time as the "home of horse racing" the last five years. As a matter of fact, racing on mainstream television has become almost an anachronism, something that those old enough to remember it in its heyday (the 1970s) look back upon with wistful fascination. Of course, I completely understand the need of ESPN to place racing on the back burner, especially in the fall, when the network is so college football-centric. This also isn't to say that ESPN did a poor job in their handling of the Breeders' Cup telecasts. I actually thought for the most part, their work was just fine. Of course, the one major negative here is that They Are Off favorite, Jeannine Edwards, will not be part of the Cup going forward.
However, I am really excited for the prospect of NBC getting all of the major horse racing properties again. In reality, it started in 2011 when they reclaimed the Belmont Stakes and made all three Triple Crown races available on the same network, which makes complete sense in the entertainment industry because if you make something available to the mass audience in one place (and do a good job with it), they are more likely to look for that product again in the same place later on.
There is one major improvement in the overall Breeders' Cup program now and that is that the Classic itself will be run in prime time in the east with the race scheduled to run between 8pm and 9pm on November 3 for this year's Cup to be held at Santa Anita. The Classic under the lights the last two years at Churchill Downs was great theater with the Blame-Zenyatta drama in 2011 and Drosselmeyer's comeback victory over Game On Dude in 2012. Now, that Classic drama will unfold before a prime time audience, which can only be a good thing.
The one sea change that also came into being in 2011 was the use of Larry Collmus as the race caller by NBC for the Triple Crown series. Now, Larry will also get to call the Breeders' Cup races as well (the original article on the DRF website said the on-air talent had not been selected yet, but common sense says Larry will be getting the position) and I think this is a great thing also. Larry did a magnificent job calling the 2011 Triple Crown and is now positioned to emerge as the "Voice of Racing" for this generation, in much the same way Chic Anderson, Dave Johnson, and Tom Durkin all held that title so admirably.
All in all, there are so many positives with the switch on the Breeders' Cup back to NBC, not only for the event itself but the industry as a whole, that all we can do is tip our hats to the decision-makers behind this move and say well done.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!