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Classic seeks recognition without Triple Crown champ Justify

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The reigning Triple Crown champion is not part of the field for this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. And none of the horses in any of the 14 races that make up the Breeders’ Cup cards this weekend has ever won a Kentucky Derby, or a Preakness, or a Belmont Stakes.

So there’s little argument that the races at Churchill Downs this weekend have lost a little luster.

The same argument could be made that this Breeders’ Cup might still end up as a bettors’ delight.

Justify, the Triple Crown champion who was forced into retirement by an ankle problem, would have given the $6 million Classic an absolute superstar for bettors to back. But his absence creates more of a wide-open race, one that has the Dubai World Cup winner in Thunder Snow, the last two Travers Stakes winners in West Coast and Catholic Boy, and 5-2 early favorite Accelerate – who has won his last four Grade 1 starts.

“Bettors love a large, wide-open field that offers value in their selections,” said trainer Tom Amoss, whose horse Lone Sailor is a 30-1 morning-line longshot in the Classic. “I don’t have any question that that’ll be the case.”

There are plenty of reasons to like most of the horses in the Classic. Combined, the 14 entrants in the field have combined to hit the toteboard in 72 percent of their lifetime starts.

Casual fans might not know all the names. But the sport’s biggest followers are likely seeing some serious Classic value.

“Justify not being part of the Classic, a Triple Crown winner, tends to take a little bit away from the Classic itself as far as the viewer wanting to see the best of the best,” Amoss said. “But don’t sell this group short. These are really, really good, talented horses and whoever emerges the victor is going to probably garner older-horse divisional championships.”

Horse of the Year might even be there for the taking.

Whoever wins the Grade 1 Classic figures to take a big step toward contending for the Eclipse Award given to the year’s best horse. If Justify were here and won the Classic – like American Pharoah did three years ago in his Triple Crown year – it would be huge news, another positive shot in the arm for a sport that is seeking ways to draw in more interest.

“I would’ve loved to have him in there, it would’ve been great,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who conditioned both American Pharoah and Justify. “But I think it’s a good field, a solid field.”

That really can be said about all of the Breeders’ Cup races. The entrants for this weekend have combined to win 794 races, or just over 37 percent of their career starts. It is inevitable that some horses who have never finished lower than third won’t even hit the board this weekend, a testament to the depth of these fields.

The Breeders’ Cup Distaff for fillies and mares features the two most recent Kentucky Oaks winners in Monomoy Girl and Abel Tasman, another Baffert pupil.

The Classic features a mix of American and foreign horses including Yoshida, a 4-year-old from Japan. Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn are returning to Churchill Downs, seeking to shake last-place finishes in the past two Kentucky Derbys – both got eased long before the finish after not being able to endure rocky starts in those respective Runs for the Roses.

No Classic is complete without a Baffert presence and he has two in West Coast and McKinzie, the horse who might have been the Derby favorite if not for a hind leg injury. Justify seized the opening, and the rest is horse racing history.

Accelerate is a 5-year-old making his first Classic start after finishing ninth and third in the Classic Dirt Mile the past two years. He has won five of six starts this year and brings a three-race winning streak into the 1 1/4-mile Classic.

“He’s a year older, and this distance is his best distance now,” trainer John Sadler said of the California-based Accelerate. “He’s had a great year and he looks great, so we’re really looking forward to this weekend.”

And if he wins, odds are a lot more people will know Accelerate’s name.

NBC to broadcast the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January 2019

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The Stronach Group Adds $7 Million Grade 1 Turf Stakes to Race Day Festivities

2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner Accelerate to Run in 2019 Pegasus World Cup Invitational

NBC’s Live Coverage of the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series will be streamed on NBCSports.com & the NBC Sports app

STAMFORD, Conn. – Nov. 8, 2018 – NBC Sports Group has reached an agreement with The Stronach Group for exclusive United States media rights to the third annual running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on January 26, 2019 from The Stronach Group’s Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Among the entries for the 2019 running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational is 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate.

Building on the success of 2017 and 2018, The Stronach Group has expanded the 2019 event for both horse owners and fans by turning the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational into a championship series.  The Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series will include the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), to be contested on the dirt at 1 1/8 miles offering $4 million for the winner of the 12-horse field and the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), to be run on the turf at 1 3/16 mile. The Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational will replace the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and aims to attract and showcase 12 of the best turf horses from around the world as they compete for a $3 million first place prize.

NBC will air a live 90-minute program featuring both the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. The broadcast will also showcase the Pegasus “blue” carpet, celebrity and live entertainment event elements from Gulfstream Park at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 26, 2019. All coverage will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs.

“The Stronach Group is thrilled to once again partner with NBC Sports to bring the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series to life,” said Belinda Stronach, Chairman and President, The Stronach Group. “Our live broadcast and streaming partnership with NBC Sports reflects our company’s commitment to collaborating with top tier partners to showcase the entertainment and excitement of this world-class Thoroughbred horse racing event.”

“We are excited to partner with The Stronach Group to kick off our 2019 horse racing coverage with North America’s richest race,” said Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC Sports Group. “For the past two years, the Pegasus World Cup has thrilled viewers, and we’re honored to continue to present it to horse racing fans nationwide.”

Past winners of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational include Arrogate, the 2016 Eclipse Award Winning Champion Three Year Old Male and the top earning Thoroughbred of all time, and 2017 Horse of the Year, Gun Runner.  On the heels of an exciting Breeders’ Cup Classic win with Accelerate, trainer John Sadler’s next stop will be the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series where he has committed to spots on the dirt, with Accelerate, and on the turf.

In addition, The Stronach Group will offer a $1 million bonus to the owner who wins both the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and will be introducing a new race day wager, the Pegasus Pick 24.  The Pegasus Pick 24 will provide fans with the chance to bet on the exact finish order for both the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. A $5 million bonus awaits the lucky fan that hits on the Pegasus Pick 24.

Follow all of the excitement of the 2019 Pegasus World Cup on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @PegasusWorldCup #PegasusWorldCup #RunWithUs.

NBC SPORTS GROUP AND HORSE RACING: In addition to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, NBC Sports Group is the exclusive home to the most important and prestigious events in horse racing, including the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. Also in 2018, NBC Sports Group televised the Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby. NBC has been the exclusive home of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes since 2001, and the Belmont Stakes since 2011, when NBC Sports Group reassembled the Triple Crown.

 

THE STRONACH GROUP: The Stronach Group (TSG) is a world-class technology, entertainment and real estate development company with Thoroughbred racing and pari-mutuel wagering at the core. TSG encompasses five distinct business areas that are inter-related and supportive of each other, enabling TSG to be the most dominant player in the Thoroughbred horse racing industry in the United States, with business relations around the globe. TSG business areas include Technology, Entertainment, Racing, Real Estate Development and Agriculture. TSG is dedicated to delivering the best in class Thoroughbred racing content and operations. The company holds some of the greatest brands in the industry, including Southern California’s Santa Anita Park, “The Great Race Place”; South Florida’s Gulfstream Park, home to the US $16 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series and retail destination, The Village at Gulfstream Park; Pimlico Race Course, home of the legendary Preakness Stakes, Laurel Park and Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland; Oregon’s Portland Meadows; and the San Francisco Bay Area’s, Golden Gate Fields. TSG is a leader in digital and mobile wagering technology through its subsidiaries AmTote and Xpressbet and is a major distributor of horse racing content to a global audience through Monarch Content Management. Please visit www.stronachgroup.com for more information

–NBC SPORTS GROUP–

 

For more on NBC Sports Group please contact:

Dan Masonson

Dan.Masonson@NBCUni.com

 

For more information on The Pegasus World Cup Invitational or The Stronach Group please contact:

Tiffani Steer, Vice President, Communications and Events, The Stronach Group

tiffani.steer@stronachgroup.com

NBC Sports & Churchill Downs to debut Road to the Kentucky Derby magazine series in Spring 2019

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NBC Sports, The Home of Horse Racing in U.S., Adds Two 2019 Triple Crown Prep Races with Live Coverage of Louisiana Derby & Arkansas Derby on NBCSN

 

STAMFORD, Conn. and LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – November 8, 2018 – As the home of horse racing in the United States, NBC Sports will expand its programming in 2019, collaborating with Churchill Downs on a new magazine-style series, and adding a pair of crucial prep races.

In partnership with Churchill Downs, NBC Sports will debut a new Road to the Kentucky Derby series this spring, leading up to NBC’s coverage of the 145th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve on Saturday, May 4. In March, NBCSN will debut the first of the four 30-minute Road to the Kentucky Derby episodes, which will showcase the stars of the sport, telling the stories behind the horses and the legendary race. Produced by Churchill Downs, the episodes will provide viewers with an inside look of the extensive preparations for the first leg of the Triple Crown. Keith Wetzler, Executive Producer of Broadcast at Churchill Downs, will produce the series.

In addition, NBC Sports will add the $1 million Louisiana Derby and the $1 million Arkansas Derby to its lineup of 2019 Triple Crown prep races on NBCSN next spring. The first episode of the new Road to the Kentucky Derby series will debut following the Louisiana Derby on March 23.

NBCSN is now home to the six biggest prep races in 2019, leading up to NBC Sports’ coverage of the “Run for the Roses” at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. A month of key prep race coverage on NBCSN begins with the Louisiana Derby on Saturday, March 23, followed one week later by the Florida Derby on Saturday, March 30. Coverage continues on NBCSN with “triplecast” coverage of the Wood Memorial, the Bluegrass Stakes, and the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, April 6, before the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 13.

On Saturday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will televise the $1 million Louisiana Derby from Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. Last year’s victor, Noble Indy, won by a head over Lone Sailor in a wild finish, and went on to run in both the 2018 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Coverage of the $1 million Arkansas Derby, the final prep race before the Kentucky Derby, will begin on Saturday, April 13 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The most celebrated champion of the Arkansas Derby, American Pharaoh in 2015, went on to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 horse racing season begins with the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

Below is NBC Sports Group’s 2019 prep race schedule leading up to the 2019 Kentucky Derby (All Times ET):

Sat., March 23 5:30 p.m. Louisiana Derby NBCSN
Sat., March 30 6 p.m. Florida Derby NBCSN
Sat., April 6 5:30 p.m. Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes & Santa Anita Derby NBCSN
Sat., April 13 7 p.m. Arkansas Derby NBCSN
Sat., May 4 4 p.m. Kentucky Derby NBC

 

NBC Sports Group and Horse Racing: NBC Sports Group is the exclusive home to the most important and prestigious events in horse racing, including the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. NBC has been the exclusive home of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes since 2001, and the Belmont Stakes since 2011, when NBC Sports Group reassembled the Triple Crown.

 

About Churchill Downs Racetrack: Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4, 2019. Information is available at www.ChurchillDowns.com.

 

Contacts:

Dan Masonson, NBC Sports Group

203/356-2790

Dan.Masonson@NBCUni.com

 

Darren Rogers, Churchill Downs

502/636-4461

Darren.Rogers@KyDerby.com