2011 Kentucky Derby Coverage on TV

Posted on 3 min read 87 views
Red roses/Dreamstime stock photo by Enika

Disclaimer #1 – My husband works for ESPN.  I used to work for ESPN so long ago that you may not have heard of it then.

Disclaimer #2 – I will update this post as time passes and new information comes in. If you’re an RSS or email subscriber, I’ll post a new link back to this post right before Derby weekend so you’ll be up-to-date. With any luck, we’ll have new info.

For the 2011 Kentucky Derby, NBC Sports will offer Kentucky Derby-related programming starting at 4 pm EDT. At 5 pm EDT, we’ll see the Derby coverage itself. Post time, the actual race, won’t happen until about 6:24 pm EDT, in case you’re plagued with plans away from the TV on Derby Day.

Now the worrisome news. At least, it is to me.

So far, I don’t see ESPN offering its “Day at the Kentucky Derby” coverage, which is a tradition of mine, especially with former Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey offering color and race strategy analysis.

The Kentucky Derby site has a listing of Derby Week coverage so far, which includes coverage of the Kentucky Oaks on May 6, the Friday of Derby Week. ESPN, however, is conspicuously absent.

My cable system here in the nexus of Red Sox Nation and Yankeemania does not offer the horse racing channels, like HRTV. Good thing I have an online HRTV account. We’ll be running the internet browser through the HDTV on Derby afternoon for the undercard.

A lot of equestrian sports coverage is moving online, apparently. We are a niche market, so more money for commercials comes from the masses that follow team sports.

Betcha didn’t know that TV shows air so that people will watch commercials. Digital video recorders (DVRs) have allowed people to fast-forward through the commercials. Don’t think that goes unnoticed. Big Brother goes digital, baby.

Anyway, let’s list where we will be able to find coverage in addition to NBC Sports on TV:

  • HRTV – Has a lot of other shows and documentaries, including live racing.
  • HRRN – Yes, it’s radio, but listening to the action on the radio has its period charm. Here’s a list of Horse Racing Radio Network’s 2011 Triple Crown shows, which we can access online.
  • Versus – Said to be the home of outdoor sports, although it covers NHL. (The National Hockey League? Really? An outdoor sport??? Sorry. Couldn’t resist) As of this writing, I didn’t see any horse racing info on the site.  Yet, the Kentucky Derby site says Versus has the Derby post position draw at 5 pm EDT on May 4, so the Versus network is all-in when it comes to Derby coverage. [New info: Versus is owned by  NBCUniversal and is the former Outdoor Life Network, according to Wikipedia. So, if your cable system had Outdoor Life (OLN) you might have Versus.]

Again, the Kentucky Derby website has a listing of the specifics where, what and when to watch. http://www.kentuckyderby.com/watch

And I’ll keep on checking ESPN’s schedule. I haven’t given up hope.

Jerry Bailey, what are you doing for Derby?




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  • Susie Blackmon
    April 21, 2011

    What is the name of the crack-of-dawn Derby Day program that I used to watch? I’ve looked for it for a couple of years now… is it gone now, or have I just lost the ability to find it on the tube?? ‘-)

    Always enjoy reading your posts. Thank you!

  • Rhonda Lane
    April 21, 2011

    Hi, Susie – I don’t think you mean the coverage Louisville TV offers, unless some station in the Ocala area used the video feed, so I’m guessing you mean the old early am program ESPN used to run? They used to call it “Breakfast at the Kentucky Derby” or “Breakfast at Churchill Downs” – and they’d repeat it for a several hours to hit the time zones. I miss that one, too.

  • nvsally
    April 21, 2011

    I’m very disappointed that NBC is again doing Derby coverage. After last years terrible coverage – with them not allowing TVG or HRTV to show any coverage of races prior to the Derby – i.e. Nicanor’s race – the race prior to the Derby – I was outraged as was alot of other people. Fine – don’t show the derby but allow other channels to cover the races prior. During the race I really wanted to see there was an interview with an olympic skier – WHO CARES???

    I would love for ESPN to carry the Derby as they have in the past – they showed prior races and things that were important to the Derby – horses, trainers and owners – ok – I don’t mind seeing the great hats the ladies wear – but lets get real – this is about the HORSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for listening.

  • Rhonda Lane
    April 22, 2011

    I was shocked to see where NBC skipped the Nicanor race last year, too, Sally. TV missed a great Circle of Life story opportunity with the full brother of Barbaro running in a Derby undercard race.

    I remember reading where TV sports execs determined that the two events that bring women to sports TV are the Olympics and the Kentucky Derby. And, of course, I suspect the execs think all we’re interested in are the lifestyle stories.

    I have to admit that I’m less interested in seeing all the handicapping tips. I think the bettors would be better served with more knowledge of horses themselves and of racing strategy.

    Anyway, thank you for chiming in, Sally.

  • Lisa Kemp
    April 22, 2011

    Thanks for this news, Rhonda, I assumed ESPN would be doing the all-day coverage they’ve provided in the past. How disappointing, especially when interest in horses, and the Kentucky Derby, seems to have been growing.

    Personally, this will really put a damper on my own Derby Day ritual of the past 6 or 7 years, which is an all-afternoon get-together at a local bar that does a Derby party, with all the TVs turned to ESPN until the NBC coverage starts, a Derby/Kentucky food buffet (burgoo, anyone?), and the official glasses. Hats, too.

    For the industry, I think this decision is really short-sighted. If advertising revenue isn’t what it needs to be for ESPN to do their race-day coverage, maybe they need to re-think the way they’re doing it. Maybe they need to bring us in as consultants, eh? That’s a great point about Nicanor & Barbaro, what an opportunity they missed on that story, given the global response to Barbaro.

    What would I like to see more of? More about the HORSES. Period. I agree, who cares what a skier has to say about the race?! Do jockeys get interviewed at Stanley Cup playoff games?

    Interview HORSE people, there are certainly enough of them at Churchill Downs on Derby Day; I’d like views from various people within the equine and racing worlds. Racing history, art, photography. How about the gains made in terms of post-career TB adoption & ‘second careers’ for these ex-racehorses in recent years? I also love Bill Nack’s segments. Derby Day is the ONE day of the year I actually WATCH ESPN. Just sayin.

    BTW, my own personal pet peeve about major network post parade coverage for races is that the horses’ legs are usually covered by graphics. Why can’t the graphics be run down the side, so we can actually see how the horse is moving? Sheesh.

  • Rhonda Lane
    April 22, 2011

    Hi, Lisa. Your Derby Day ritual with the party sounds fabulous. I’m sorry to hear that the early part is now kaputski.

    Bill Nack is a poet. His words can both fill my soul with awe and turn my heart green with envy at his talent. I remember his phrase describing Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Classic – “an aging Amazon” up against “a pack of teenaged wolves.”

    Frankly, I’m just not worthy to even quote the man – which is probably why I likely misquoted him. 🙁

    As for the graphics during the post parade, welcome to the club. I know why they put the graphics at the bottom of the screen because that used to be my job – to operate the studio computer that presents that info.

    Identifiers in news and sports TV are traditionally displayed in what’s called “lower third supers.” Except that lower third is creeping up to the halfway point on the screen.

    With race horses, seeing a horse’s and conformation of the legs are important information – but the “lower third super” blocks that.

    Now, back in the dinousaur days when beating the Russians at Olympic hockey was just a “yeah-right” pipedream, we couldn’t run info vertically down the side of the screen. Only across, perhaps at the top or the bottom.

    However, while I was at lunch today, I realized that it CAN be done. That’s how ESPN displays its “coming up next” info. I saw it on coverage of the NBA playoffs.

    Also, I know that TV wants to serve the bettors, but I think bettors would have better (?) results if they knew more about the horses in question, instead of just depending on in the stats and the tip sheets. (Not to dis tip sheets … .)

    That’s why I love it when Jerry Bailey is in the announce booth. He explains racing well. Frankly, I’d rather have knowledge instead of opinions any day.

    Thank you so much for stopping by, Lisa.

  • Rodney
    April 24, 2011


    • Rhonda Lane
      April 24, 2011

      Me neither, Rodney. I’ve found out that Versus is an NBCUniversal company, but it’s also owned by Comcast. Those of us without a dish or without Comcast for cable outlet might be SOL.

  • Roberto Suhocki
    May 7, 2011

    NBC coverage of 2011 Ky Derby was TERRIBLE. Interviewers made numerous mistakes. They did not act like horse racing sportscasters,
    but rather like amateurs.
    Name and odds of all horses were not shown in post parade.
    Poor preparation or technical difficulty, but still something
    a horse racing channel would not do wrong.
    Can’t wait till ESPN or a horse racing channel gets the contract to cover the Derby.

    • Rhonda Lane
      May 7, 2011

      My husband the ESPN engineer thanks you, Roberto. 🙂 And so do I.

      Some of the pronunciations and details made me cringe, too. Still, they have a wicked long day on the air, broadcasting live from 11 am until 4. Slips-of-the-tongue are bound to happen. But still.

      I suspect a lot of people still got lost or frustrated when they clicked over to ESPN for the traditional “Day at the Derby” show. After all, ESPN”s been doing it for a good 25 years.

      I just hope NBC doesn’t interpret any lower viewership during the day as a lack of interest – because many of us are VERY interested in the day’s coverage.

      Thanks for commenting, Roberto.

  • nvsally
    May 7, 2011

    I think it was much better than last year – LOL. I really did enjoy the Versus Coverage – ALOT!

  • Rhonda Lane
    May 7, 2011

    Thanks, Sally. One thing I did like a lot was the post-race show with Randy Moss and Lafitt Pincay. I liked being eased out of the Derby high.

    I missed the first two hours of the undercard thanks to a previous commitment. I have to admit, Donna Brothers and Gary Stevens with their jockeys-in-the-gate demo likely gave casual race fans (those who only watch racing on the first Saturday in May) an explanation newbies could understand.

    That said, I’m not naming names, but the city is called Loo-uh-vul, y’all. Spend much time in town? Dang.

  • nvsally
    May 7, 2011

    I love Randy Moss so I enjoyed the versus programming alot. They did have a few celebrity interviews – which was ok – but most of the show was on the horses, trainers and owners. About damn time!!!

    • Rhonda Lane
      May 7, 2011

      I love Randy, too, Sally. I was glad to see that NBC had brought him on board. I also appreciated the emphasis on the horses, trainers, owners and jockeys. Lots of good stories this year with fabulous characters. I’m glad I “met” them, thanks to the broadcast.

  • nvsally
    May 7, 2011

    I take a handicapping class on the internet and Randy Moss was the guest last week. He said that the NFL is now his full time job. I do hope he does the Preakness and he Belmont – I mean he does have time before football!

    • Rhonda Lane
      May 7, 2011

      Oh dear. I hope he still does the Triple Crown Races. And the Travers. And Breeders Cup.

  • ernie
    July 31, 2011

    i miss breakfast at churchill downs and yes they would do a repeat for several hours for the time zones is correct i would watch a repeat alot of course. thea andrews was always the co-host of the show and would do run downs of the horses for the derby and oaks. would do storylines on the horses and would talk to horseracing connections too. the show would be a mix of pop culture, horse racing and entertainment. it was a good show and espn please bring back thea!!! she actually did know for someone who’s pretty and had an entertainment background. she would do afernoon interviews with entertainment celeberites on today at churchill downs and today at the kentucky derby also. when thea left espn that’s when espn’s horse racing coverage started to suck big time and since then hasn’t been a friend to horse racing too!!

    • Rhonda Lane
      August 1, 2011

      Hi, Ernie. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your feelings about the ESPN coverage. I, too, miss Breakfast at Churchill Downs, etc., and all the associated Triple Crown programming. Apparently, as of this writing, ABC/ESPN still has the Breeders Cup races. I just had the opportunity to compare coverage from both NBC and ABC/ESPN Sports on consecutive days. I appreciate the commitment NBC is making to horse racing, but I have to say there are two things the Peacock network doesn’t have – color commentary by jockey Jerry Bailey and narrative essays by turf writer William Nack. I’ve seen jockeys ride post-race to the ABC announce booth to talk to Jerry about the race. He has amazing access and knowledge and, better yet, a way to communicate that knowledge with energy and authority. And then Bill Nack’s essays have the power to move me to tears. I didn’t mean for this reply simply intended to thank you to go on so long. Let’s just say that I share your passion for horse racing on TV, and maybe I need to turn this into a full blog post? Thanks again for responding. Please feel welcome to visit and comment again.

  • ernie
    August 7, 2011

    i will add that jerry bailey is a good analyst but there are other commentators that are good to like jay privman, jeannine edwards and caton bredar are good. randy moss and joe tessitore are okay. but the dotos are kenny and hank.

    • Rhonda Lane
      August 7, 2011

      Hi, Ernie – You named a bunch of great commentators. I think I saw another good one yesterday on the “Summer at Saratoga” broadcast – former jockey Richard Migliore. I hadn’t seen him on camera before, except in the irons when he was riding. I think he has a great future on TV, too. Thanks for commenting.