Thoroughbred Racing on NBC

Thoroughbred Racing on NBC
Genre Horse racing telecasts
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 120 minutes or until race ends
Production company(s) NBC Sports
Original network NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Original release 1949 (1949) – present

Thoroughbred Racing on NBC is the de facto title for a series of horse races events whose broadcasts are produced by NBC Sports, the sports division of the NBC television network in the United States. Race coverage is currently helmed by, among others, hosts Tom Hammond and Bob Costas, along with analyst Gary Stevens, handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier, reporters Kenny Rice and Donna Barton Brothers and track announcer Larry Collmus.


Kentucky Derby

NBC's relationship with the races that comprise the Triple Crown thoroughbred racing series began in 1949, when the NBC Red Network carried the first radio broadcast of the Kentucky Derby. One week after ESPN signed the Breeders' Cup deal, NBC struck a five-year broadcasting deals with Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment Corporation, the backers of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes; NBC renewed its agreement with Churchill Downs in 2010, in a five-year deal through 2015.[1]

Breeders' Cup

NBC gained the broadcast rights to the Breeders' Cup from its inception in 1984. The network ran the race until 2005, when ESPN signed an eight-year television contract to broadcast the race starting in 2006. In 2012, NBC regained the broadcast rights for the Breeders' Cup. Most races are shown on the NBC Sports Network, while the Classic is broadcast on the main network.[2] NBC subsequently announced plans to also broadcast select races from the Breeders' Cup Challenge series throughout the year. In 2016, nine telecasts were made covering 16 "Win and You're In" races.[3]

The Triple Crown

In October 1999, NBC Sports won the rights to broadcast the three races in the Triple Crown series (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) beginning with the 2001 races.

NBC loses the Belmont Stakes

On October 4, 2004, citing a dispute about profits accrued from the deal, the New York Racing Association agreed to move the broadcast rights to the Belmont Stakes to ABC/ESPN starting with the 2006 race. NBC retained rights to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Some believe the move was a result of the New York Racing Association's decision to break ranks with the other two tracks on a television contract. NBC Sports continued to broadcast the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes rights until 2010. Triple Crown Productions was formed in 1986 with ABC; prior to that, the individual racing associations reached their own deals with television networks.

Prior to the change, on May 21, 2005, VISA officially withdrew its sponsorship of the Triple Crown, effective with the 2006 races; this relieved the company from paying the US$5,000,000 bonus to the owner of the horse that wins the Triple Crown. Sponsorship of the races was taken over by Triple Crown Productions in 2006.

NBC reassembles The Triple Crown

On February 22, 2011, NBC announced deals to broadcast the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes through 2015. The deals reunited all three Triple Crown races on NBC for the first time since 2005, and also included cable deals with Versus (now NBCSN) to provide coverage of the races' Saturday undercards as well as the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Friday races.[4]

Other races

In 1981, the NBC television broadcast the Arlington Million, the first thoroughbred race to feature a million-dollar prize payout.


Tom Hammond's tenure at NBC began in 1984, when he was named as a co-host of the inaugural Breeders' Cup, alongside Dick Enberg. Hammond was intended to host that year's race, however NBC executives were so impressed with his performance, that he ended up getting a long-term contract.

On March 24, 2001, less than two months before NBC was supposed to broadcast the Kentucky Derby for the very first time, Hammond underwent an operation for diverticulitis, a disease that affects the colon, which resulted in a portion of Hammond's colon being removed during the surgery. However, even with the short amount of time between the Derby and his operation, Hammond managed to get healthy enough to make his dream of broadcasting his home state's most famous sporting event become a reality on May 5, 2001.

Hammond was not so lucky in October 2002, when he underwent open-heart surgery, causing him to miss covering that year's Breeders' Cup (the only Breeders' Cup Hammond had not been a part of); Bob Costas, who was already a part of NBC's Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup coverage, working as mainly the "story set-up man" took Hammond's place at the hosting desk.

Notable moments

2015 Belmont Stakes:
American Pharoah has opened up a two-length lead as they come to the top of the stretch. And Frosted has moved up into second. And they're into the stretch! And American Pharoah makes his run for glory as they come into the final furlong. Frosted is second with one-eighth of a mile to go. American Pharoah's got a two-length lead! Frosted is all out at the sixteenth pole. AND HERE IT IS! THE 37-YEAR WAIT IS OVER!!!! AMERICAN PHAROAH IS FINALLY THE ONE!!!!!!!!! AMERICAN PHAROAH HAS WON THE TRIPLE CROWN!!!!!!!!
Larry Collmus calling American Pharoah's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Nielsen ratings

During NBC's initial tenure as the Triple Crown broadcaster, average ratings for all three races were up by over 20%. Furthermore, the period from 2002 to 2004 saw the highest ratings for the Belmont Stakes.


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