via press release:
NBC SPORTS GROUP PRESENTS 6½ HOURS OF BELMONT STAKES COVERAGE
Coverage of NBC Sports Group’s First Belmont Stakes Since 2001 Begins Friday at 4 p.m. ET on VERSUS and Culminates with 143rd Belmont Stakes on NBC, Saturday at 5 p.m. ET
Kentucky Derby Winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness Stakes Winner Shackleford Headline Field
“I think it’s pretty cool they have a rematch at Belmont because both of these horses were deserving winners of their races.” – NBC’s Mike Battaglia on Animal Kingdom and Shackleford
NEW YORK – June 8, 2011 – Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford headline the field as the NBC Sports Group presents 6½ hours of coverage of the 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes, the final stage of horse racing’s Triple Crown, from Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., beginning Friday at 4 p.m. ET on VERSUS and culminating with the Belmont Stakes Saturday at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.
This marks only the 22nd time that both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners face off at the Belmont, and the first since Giacomo and Afleet Alex battled at Belmont in 2005.
COMMENTATORS: NBC Sports coverage of the 143rd Belmont 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 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 that the NBC Sports Group are preparing for its Belmont coverage include:
A “Tale of the Tape” – Animal Kingdom vs. Shackleford.
Animal Kingdom jockey John Velazquez and his relationship with legendary jockey Angel Cordaro.
Shackleford trainer Dale Romans “Family Affair” with horse racing.
Donna Brothers demonstrating the effect of “kickback” on the horses and jockeys.
PRODUCTION TEAM: The coverage of the Belmont 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 Doug Grabert. The executive producer of NBC Sports and VERSUS is Sam Flood who has produced 11 Triple Crown races for the network.
BELMONT STAKES COVERAGE ON NBC SPORTS GROUP
Friday, Belmont Classics, 4-5 p.m., VERSUS
Friday, Live from Belmont, 5-6 p.m., VERSUS
Includes Poker Handicap and Brooklyn Handicap
Saturday, Live from Belmont, 3-5 p.m., VERSUS
Includes Just a Game, True North Handicap and Woody Stephens
Saturday, Belmont Stakes, 5-7 p.m., NBC
Includes Manhattan Handicap
Saturday, Belmont Wrap-up, 7-7:30 p.m., VERSUS
STREAM THE BELMONT LIVE ON NBCSPORTS.COM: As it has for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, NBCSports.com will provide live streaming of the Belmont Stakes. In addition to hearing Larry Collmus’ race call live, users can choose to watch Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom on an isolated camera.
NBC SPORTS HANDICAPPER MIKE BATTAGLIA ON ANIMAL KINGDOM VS. SHACKLEFORD: “I think it’s pretty cool they have a rematch at Belmont because both of these horses were deserving winners of their races. Animal Kingdom ran great in the Derby and he just couldn’t beat Shackleford in the Preakness. I think these are two good horses. The mile-and-a-half would probably be to Animal Kingdom’s benefit over Shackelford’s and the pace for Shackleford over Animal Kingdom because there’s really not a lot of speed in here so Shackleford might have things his own way on the front end. I think it’s going to be interesting. I give Animal Kingdom the slight edge over Shackleford just because of the distance.”
BATTAGLIA ON WHO COULD CHALLENGE THESE HORSES: “Santiva showed some speed in the past and he could get out there with them and maybe even Stay Thirsty. Another interesting horse is Master of Hounds, the horse of Aidan O’Brien’s that went right back to Ireland after the Derby. I’ve watched his Derby race a couple of times and I thought he ran a pretty good race. This horse is definitely bred for the distance. They’re sending him back over here for the Belmont and they must have a reason to think that he can get this mile-and-a-half. He’s very dangerous, probably the most dangerous of the horses other than the Derby and the Preakness winners. The there is Mucho Macho Man, but he kind of fell off in the Preakness so he’d really have to make a comeback and there’s Nehro. I’m still not exactly sure about his ability to win. He’s had a lot of runner-up efforts but he doesn’t seem to want to win.”
BATTAGLIA ON WHO IS IN THE MONEY: “Animal Kingdom, Shackleford and Master of Hounds are my top contenders.”
TRIPLE CROWN RATINGS INFO:
NBC AND BELMONT STAKES: NBC Sports broadcast the Belmont from 2001-05, including three straight years in which the Belmont had a Triple Crown at stake. The 2004 Belmont featuring Smarty Jones racing for the Triple Crown was seen by 21.9 million viewers, the most for a Belmont broadcast since Seattle Slew captured the elusive Triple Crown in 1977.
14.5 MILLION WATCH KENTUCKY DERBY: NBC Sports’ coverage this year’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).
8.8 MILLION WATCH PREAKNESS STAKES: NBC Sports coverage of the Preakness Stakes drew 8.8 million viewers, a gain of five percent over last year’s race and the second most-watched Preakness in five years, topped only by the much-hyped boys vs. girls showdown in 2009 when filly Rachel Alexandra – with jockey Calvin Borel – beat Mine That Bird, which Borel rode to victory in the Kentucky Derby.
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.
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.