Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
55,000 Furlongs to the Finish

NBC’s “Road to the Kentucky Derby”

I think we can all agree that TVG is great for watching racing, but annoyed by the limited tracks it broadcasts from.  By not showing races at Gulfstream Park, Fairgrounds, or Santa Anita, it really handicaps (pun intended) my ability to catch the winter/spring races I really want to watch.  In case people are confused, I’m referring to the Derby prep races.  The 2012 Kentucky Derby trail is part of what makes the sport fantastic.  Watching the freshman we scouted the previous year blossom into real derby contenders is exciting and satisfying to almost any fan.  As is finding the unpolished gems. 


Fortunately for horse racing fans, NBC Sports is bringing us the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.”  This is a weekly series that is set to debut this Saturday with the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes and the Bourbonette Oaks.  Each Saturday after, it will air anther Kentucky Derby and Oaks preps all the way through the Bluegrass Stakes and Arkansas Derby. 


I know I’m excited because I won’t have to scour the internet to try and find a live feed.  However, I look at what NBC Sports is doing, and I hope they are doing it right.  I see a great opportunity to increase the sport’s fan base.  I guess it depends on how the races are presented to the general public, and knowing whom the real audience is.  Given that NBC is airing the Kentucky Derby on May 5th, I would like to think that the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series is designed to pick up new viewers and culminate with the “Super Bowl” of horse racing in the USA. 


In order to pick up new fans, and get them excited about Derby day, NBC needs to play into what the general TV watching public wants.  Now, I’m no expert, but given the time of the prep races (Saturday afternoon), NBC will need to do some great advertising to pull in new viewers.  Selling people only on the excitement of the races is only the tip of the iceberg, and honestly, I think would cause the whole ship to sink.  What they should be selling are the stories of the horses and connections.  


New viewers need to feel a relationship to the athletes they are watching.  People love drama, and there is no other sport that can define the drama better than horse racing.  Let’s look to last year’s derby trail and explore the stories that are truly captivating.  The first, and foremost is Mucho Macho Man.  Aside from being thought to be stillborn, his trainer received a heart transplant.  Talk about a real comeback story. 


What about Comma To The Top?  This horse got his name because its southern slang for the word “apostrophe.” Mike Repole, who worked his entire life to live the American dream, became an inspiration to his family and community.  Each horse and their connections have a story to tell, all of which can be used strategically to gain new fans and viewers.   


I was at a Kentucky Derby party last year in San Francisco, and half of the people there were cheering for Pants on Fire knowing nothing other than his jockey, Rosie Naprovnik, was female.  These stories cannot be held back until the 4 hour broadcast on derby day. 


NBC can even play into connections that already have a fan base from television.  Bobby Flay has many fans from his cooking shows and he owns several high caliber horses.  Rob Dyrdek is a MTV personality and pro skateboarder, and was on the path to the Kentucky Oaks with Weemissfrankie before she got hurt.  Sometimes, all it takes is name recognition.  Any relationship “John or Jane American” can build with the horses, jockeys, or owners will grow the fan base. 


The sport needs to get new fans, and if NBC gives them a reason to watch, the rest will fall into place.  Sometimes it only takes a snowball to start an avalanche.  As we watch the commercials and other forms of advertising leading up the Triple Crown, just think to yourself how the sport would be different if Pants on Fire had won the Derby last year…  Oh, and did they mention it’s legal to gamble on the races?  


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Older Comments about NBC’s “Road to the Kentucky Derby”...

all you need is dish network and you get tvg & hrtv come on people, get your act together
I would toss Direct TV in heartbeat w/ no HRTV. CalRacing.com is def. essential for viewing pp's ran in CA.
I like how I can follow Jumping as well with HRTV.
I agree with the issues with TVG and not showing Gulfstream and Santa Anita which I thought was because of Frank Stronach. I could be wrong here. I do not get HRTV on Directtv but you can get HRTV on iPad phone or pc directly from their website. Also cal racing.com shows all CA tracks for free on iPad, iPhone , pc etc.
The BEST thing to do is tune in and and NEVER turn up the volume. When ABC had the Dery I taped it every year. They used "plants" of the beautiful people singing My Old Kentucky Home. Only problem was that many of the "plants" were the same people year to year and only discoverd by looking at old tapes of previous years...
Ever since NBC lost the Breeder's Cup, the coverage was lousy with mronic ommentators going on and on with truly ignorant pieces ......Where is Tom Durkin and the first stringers when we need them? I watched TVG for a few days while visiting relatives and it is even worse...
I enjoyed your article, especially relate to searching the Internet for live feeds. I am lucky to have TVG and thankful that both SA and gulfstream have live video along with often humorous commenting from fans. Having a strong triple crown contender will quickly capture fans. I hope, and feel a little confident that we just may have a real contender among this year's crop.
And hello, Matt ! , I am glad that I have HRTV in addition to TVG, it must be really frustrating not to be able to see Santa Anita and Gulfstream live.
All NBC is going to have to do is show a few good shots of Hansen, people seem to love him at first sight because they think he is a white horse (and he is beautiful). I predict that he will be wildly popular if he wins the Kentucky Derby because of his color. :)
Thank you all for the warm welcome :). Good call, AnnaK, I will forward this to NBC. And I loved their coverage last year too, Andy.
Matt, welcome to the HRN blog squad! That NBC coverage was very good last year, let's hope it gets even better.
Loved your article and ideas, send a copy of this to NBC, plus those great commercials France made about racing that are on Youtube.
Welcome, Matt. My fiancee will be jealous when I tell her you have a wiener dog!
Welcome, Matt! I have always enjoyed how NBC presents horse racing and am excited to see the preps in their capable hands once again.
Great piece, and welcome to the HRN Family, Matt! I would also like to point out that country music star Toby Keith owns a few racehorses, including Reckless Jerry, another Derby hopeful. I like your take on what NBC needs to do to draw in new viewers, and, personally, I think that's the exact way to go about it.
Good to see some solid coverage again of the Derby preps, and great to welcome you, Matt, to the HRN family!

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Meet Matt Scott 

My horseracing journey began when I was 16 years old and my mom took me to Hollywood Park. Although I did not fully appreciate it at the time, the experience stuck with me forever. 10 years later, during one of my many international business trips to Hong Kong, I visited Sha Tin racetrack to watch the races. This is where my true passion began. 


Holding a masters degree in mechanical engineering, the puzzle of handicapping intrigued me. I have made a career of making decisions based on trends, patterns, and formulas, which is why I think I was initially drawn to the sport. However, I have truly learned to appreciate the horses and how magnificent they are as athletes. 


I currently live in San Jose, CA, and when not following racing, I like to spend time with my wife, mountain bike, and design high-speed bicycles that I build and race For reference, 55,000 furlongs is the distance from Hong Kong to my home in San Jose. Also, I have 1-year-old dachshund (aka wiener dog) that I am training to race in the annual Wiener Nationals held at Golden Gate Fields.   


The purpose of this blog is to help give people the viewpoint of a fan that is newer to the sport and eager to learn. I like to respectfully speak my mind, and often the ideas come out of left field, which could give a fresh perspective on a sport rich with tradition and history. hope to represent the many future fans that I wish to follow my footsteps into the Sport of Kings. 

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