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

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports
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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.