On Monday, NBC TV and the Breeder’s Cup announced that starting in 2012 the Breeder’s Cup will return to NBC for the first time in six years.
This ends the relationship between the Breeder’s Cup and ESPN.
One of the more intriguing aspects of this new relationship is the fact that NBC will be airing the Breeder’s Cup Classic during prime time. That exposure is a wonderful thing for racing….it will give the sport the opportunity to reach more viewers and the opportunity to attract a new fan base.
So why am I not thrilled?
The remaining 13 races of the Breeder’s Cup will be relegated to NBC Sports Network. This upstart TV network ( formerly known as Versus) does not have the reach ESPN does, nor the following. As a result, the casual TV watcher would have to really search for the Breeder’s Cup races, which makes drawing new fans problematic. Hopefully there will be some cross promotion from NBC to help draw viewers and fans to NBC Sports Network; they’ve done a good job in the past showing racing from Saratoga and Keenland.
New York racing and Belmont Park will be kept out of the rotation of host tracks for the foreseeable future. As a New York horse owner and fan of New York racing, this is disappointing.
Why am I so sure that this will happen?
The Breeder’s Cup is held in late October or early November; at a time when the sun sets no later than 6:00 PM on the East Coast. As a result, to be able to run the majority of the races on Breeder’s Cup day, lights would need to be installed so that the track could be illuminated. Belmont presently is not lit and to light the track would take a substantial investment.
Additionally, due to the size of Belmont, as the weather gets colder and the track becomes harder it’s much more difficult to maintain. This would create an uneven racing surface which would risk a repeat of the horrors of the 1990 Breeder’s Cup when four horses broke down – the worst being Filly champion Go For Wand.
Finally, from a fan standpoint – it is COLD in November at Belmont even when the sun is out. I can only imagine what it would be like once the sun goes down. Bring blankets and hand warmers!
While I am hopeful that New York will be included in the Breeder’s Cup rotation, clearly my reservations are not being made any time soon.
It’s too bad, because NYRA has the ability to host a fantastic event for Breeder’s Cup.