Thoroughbred Racing on NBC

Last updated
Thoroughbred Racing on NBC
Genre Horse racing telecasts
Country of origin United States
Original language English
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time120 minutes or until race ends
Production company NBC Sports
Original network NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Original release1949 (1949) 

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, host Mike Tirico, along with analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey, handicappers Eddie Olczyk and Britney Eurton, reporters Kenny Rice, Donna Barton Brothers, Laffit Pincay III and Carolyn Manno 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, Inc. 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, NBC's SportsWorld broadcast the Arlington Million, [5] the first thoroughbred race to feature a million-dollar prize payout. Dick Enberg hosted the broadcast alongside analyst Michael O'Hehir

In 2017, NBC began to carry coverage of the Royal Ascot, the most significant meet in British thoroughbred racing. NBCSN carries coverage of the weekday sessions, while the Saturday session is carried by NBC. [6] [7]


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 the one! American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown!

Larry Collmus calling American Pharoah's win, making him the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
2018 Belmont Stakes

A sixteeenth to go. Justify is still there. Justify from Gronkowski—he's just perfect. And now he's just immortal! Justify is the 13th Triple Crown winner!

Collmus calling Justify's run to the 2018 Triple Crown. [8]

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.

Related Research Articles

Kentucky Derby American stakes race for Thoroughbreds, part of the Triple Crown

The Kentucky Derby is a horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, almost always on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The competition is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2.0 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds and fillies 121 pounds.

Belmont Stakes American stakes race for Thoroughbreds, part of the Triple Crown

The Belmont Stakes is an American Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Colts and geldings carry a weight of 126 pounds (57 kg); fillies carry 121 pounds (55 kg). The race, nicknamed The Test of the Champion and The Run for the Carnations, is the traditional third and final leg of the Triple Crown. It is usually held on the first or second Saturday in June, five weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. The 1973 Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown winner Secretariat holds the mile and a half stakes record of 2:24.

Bob Baffert American horse owner and trainer

Robert A. Baffert is an American racehorse trainer who trained the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. Baffert's horses have won six Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness Stakes, three Belmont Stakes and three Kentucky Oaks. He tied the record for most Kentucky Derby wins by a horse trainer with Authentic's win at the 2020 Derby.

Triple Crown Productions is an ad hoc production company that produced the series of Triple Crown races for thoroughbred horses.

The Arkansas Derby is an American flat Thoroughbred horse race for three-year-olds held annually in April at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is currently a Grade I race run over a distance of 9 furlongs on dirt.

Victor Espinoza

Victor Espinoza is a Mexican jockey in American Thoroughbred horse racing who won the Triple Crown in 2015 on American Pharoah. He began riding in his native Mexico and went on to compete at racetracks in California. He has won the Kentucky Derby three times, riding War Emblem in 2002, California Chrome in 2014, and American Pharoah in 2015. He also won the Preakness Stakes three times, in those same years and with the same horses. He was the first jockey in history to enter the Belmont Stakes with a third opportunity to win the Triple Crown; his 2015 victory made him the oldest jockey and first Hispanic jockey to win the award.

Larry Collmus is a Thoroughbred horse racing announcer. A native of Baltimore, Collmus has called at numerous racetracks around the country. He is the race caller for NBC Sports' coverage of the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup. He previously called races at Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park, Suffolk Downs and NYRA.

Raise a Native American-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Raise a Native was an undefeated Thoroughbred racehorse that was named 1963 champion two-year-old colt in the Turf and Sport Digest poll and was the highest rated juvenile in the Experimental Free Handicap. He sired 74 stakes winners, including Majestic Prince and Alydar. In its 1988 obituary for the horse, The New York Times called him "the most influential sire of American Thoroughbred stallions over the last 20 years".

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association Moment of the Year award, first awarded in 1999, celebrates or honors one moment that occurred during a given year that most thoroughly exemplifies the spirit and ethos of the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing in the United States.

In the United States, the Triple Crown races have been broadcast on television since 1960, under various individual race-broadcaster agreements. Triple Crown Productions was formed in 1985 after CBS terminated its contract with the New York Racing Association. Prior to that, the individual racing associations made their own deals with the TV networks. ABC Sports won the rights to broadcast all three races, as well as many prep races. Ratings went up after the package was centralized. This arrangement continued until 2001, when NBC Sports took over. Under NBC, ratings continued to go up, by as much as 20 percent in some years. It didn't hurt that many horses, like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, were making Triple Crown runs during those years.

Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing (United States) American Thoroughbred horse racing honor for winning three specific stakes races as a three-year-old

In the United States, the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, commonly known as the Triple Crown, is a title awarded to a three-year-old Thoroughbred horse who wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. The three races were inaugurated in different years, the last being the Kentucky Derby in 1875. The Triple Crown Trophy, commissioned in 1950 but awarded to all previous winners as well as those after 1950, is awarded to a Triple Crown winner. The races are traditionally run in May and early June of each year, although global events have resulted in schedule adjustments, such as in 1945 and 2020.

Donna Barton Brothers is a former jockey who won over 1,100 horse races and now covers horse racing and other equestrian sports for NBC Sports and NBCSN. She is probably most recognizable for her interviews with the winning jockeys from horseback after the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup races. She is one of the most decorated female jockeys of her time, retiring in 1998 with 1,130 career wins and still ranks second on the money list. Brothers hails from a family of riders, including both of her siblings, as well as her mother who was, in 1969, one of the first women to be licensed as a jockey. She resides in Louisville, Kentucky.

ABC's coverage of Thoroughbred racing currently consists of a portion of the Breeders Cup. Previously, ABC's coverage also included the Kentucky Derby (1975–2000), the Preakness Stakes (1977–2000), and the Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah American-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

American Pharoah is an American Thoroughbred racehorse who won the American Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2015. He was the 12th Triple Crown winner in history, and in winning all four races, became the first horse to win the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing. He won the 2015 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year and 2015 Champion three-year-old. He was bred and owned throughout his racing career by Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables, trained by Bob Baffert, and ridden in most of his races by Victor Espinoza. He now stands at stud at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

2015 Preakness Stakes 140th running of the Preakness Stakes

The 2015 Preakness Stakes,, was the 140th running of the Preakness Stakes, promoted as the "middle jewel" of thoroughbred horse racing's traditional Triple Crown, held two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes. The race was held at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 16, 2015, and was televised on NBC.

2015 Belmont Stakes 147th running of the Belmont Stakes

The 2015 Belmont Stakes was the 147th in the Belmont Stakes series. The 1 12-mile (2,400 m) race, known as the "test of the champion" and sometimes called the "final jewel" in thoroughbred horse racing's traditional Triple Crown series, was held on June 6, 2015, three weeks after the Preakness Stakes and five weeks after the Kentucky Derby. The Belmont Stakes was the 11th race of a 13 race card which included 10 stakes races. Post time for race 11 was 6:52 pm EDT.

Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing The four major races thoroughbred races

The Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing is an informal name for the winning of four major races in one season. The term has been applied to at least two different configurations of races.

2018 Belmont Stakes 150th running of the Belmont Stakes

The 2018 Belmont Stakes was the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes and the 107th time the event took place at Belmont Park. The 1 12-mile (2,400 m) race, known as the "test of the champion", is the final leg in the American Triple Crown. It is a Grade I stakes race with a purse of $1.5 million, open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds. The race took place on June 9, 2018, and was broadcast on NBC starting at 4 p.m. EDT. Justify won the race with a time of 2:28.18, becoming the thirteenth American Triple Crown winner.

2018 Preakness Stakes 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes

The 2018 Preakness Stakes was the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the American Triple Crown. It was a Grade I stakes race with a purse of $1.5 million for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of ​1 316 miles (1.9 km). It was held on May 19, 2018, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland and was broadcast on NBC from 5:00 pm to 7:15 pm EDT with coverage of the undercard on NBCSN starting at 2:30 pm.


  1. "NBC and Churchill Downs agree". Louisville Courier-Journal . October 7, 2010.
  2. Hegarty, Matt. "NBC regains television rights to Breeders' Cup; Classic to air in prime time". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  3. "Breeders' Cup Challenge Series Continues With NBCSN's Live Coverage Of Gold Cup - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report". Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  4. "More Than 25 Hours of Triple Crown Coverage on NBC and VERSUS". NBCUniversal Media Village (Press release). February 22, 2011.
  5. "Horse racing debuts on NBC". NBC Sports History Page.
  6. "NBC Sports Releases Royal Ascot Coverage Schedule". Blood Horse. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  7. Hoppert, Melissa (2017-06-20). "A Close-Up of the Royal Ascot Horse Races for American Viewers". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  8. "Belmont Stakes 2018, Full Race: Justify's Pursuit of the Triple Crown". NBC Sports. June 9, 2018.