Schanzer to be first woman to produce Kentucky Derby on TV

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The Kentucky Derby television broadcast will be produced by a woman for the first time in the 148-year-old history of the race.

Lindsay Schanzer is the new senior producer for NBC Sports’ Derby coverage, overseeing the network’s horse racing production. It’s her 10th Derby but her first running the show as she makes some history.

“When somebody tells you that that’s what it is and that’s what you are, it brings a smile to my face,” Schanzer said. “I didn’t set out to be that. But being the first woman anything is exciting and makes me really proud. … I think horse racing and specifically the Kentucky Derby is really a show for everyone.”

Executive producer and president Sam Flood expects Schanzer to put her own spin on a sporting event that is watched annually by more women than men. Only the Olympics is comparable in that aspect among the network’s major events.

“She’s got the opportunity to bring her own perspective,” Flood said. “We think she’s going to come up with a little bit of a stamp of her own to take this event to one more level.”

Schanzer, 33, also has produced the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. She was in charge of the Preakness last year when Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that was not permitted on race day and had to change gears.

It’s something she was prepared for from previous situations like a 45-minute weather delay at Saratoga and extreme heat at Monmouth that knocked the race out of the entire broadcast window.

“You can never get too comfortable,” Schanzer said. “You never know what’s going to happen the week before, the day before or even moments before a race begins.”

One of the challenges for anyone working the Derby is catering to the casual fan who may have never seen a horse race and the hardcore bettor at the same time. Schanzer said she and others at NBC Sports challenge handicapper Eddie Olczyk to explain the rationale behind his picks while also teaching viewers something about betting in the process.

“What’s really important to me is on this day we’re reaching an audience, many of whom never watched horse racing, so it’s inviting them and also not alienating the audience that watches horse racing throughout the year,” she said. “It’s really important to me to strike that balance and do our best to reach all viewers.”

Churchill Downs moves meet to Ellis Park to examine protocols following 12 horse deaths

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Churchill Downs will suspend racing on Wednesday and move the remainder of its spring meet to Ellis Park in order to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of safety and surface protocols in the wake of 12 horse fatalities the past month at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

No single factor has been identified as a potential cause for the fatalities or pattern detected, according to a release, but the decision was made to relocate the meet “in an abundance of caution.”

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in Friday’s release. “We need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”

Racing will continue at Churchill Downs through Sunday before shifting to the CDI-owned racing and gaming facility in Henderson, Kentucky. Ellis Park’s meet was scheduled to start July 7 and run through Aug. 27 but will now expand with Friday’s announcement.

Ellis Park will resume racing on June 10.

The move comes a day after track superintendent Dennis Moore conducted a second independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces as part of an emergency summit called this week by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) with the track and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Meetings took place in Lexington, Kentucky, and at the Louisville track.

The head of the federally created oversight agency suggested ahead of the summit that it could recommend pausing the meet and that Churchill Downs would accept that recommendation.

Churchill Downs’ release stated that expert testing raised no concerns and concluded that the surface was consistent with the track’s prior measurements. Even so, it chose to relocate “in alignment” with HISA’s recommendation to suspend the meet to allow more time for additional investigation.

“We appreciate their thoughtfulness and cooperation through these challenging moments,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said in a statement. “We will continue to seek answers and work with everyone involved to ensure that horses are running safely at Churchill Downs again in the near future.”

Carstanjen insisted that relocating the remainder of the spring meet to Ellis Park would maintain the industry ecosystem with minor disruption. He also said he was grateful to Kentucky horsemen for their support as they work to find answers.

Rick Hiles, the president of Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, questioned the move, especially since there’s no conclusive evidence that Churchill Downs’ surface is the problem.

“We all want to find solutions that will improve safety for horses,” Hiles said in a statement. “However, we need to discuss allowing trainers and veterinarians to use therapeutic medications that greatly lessen the risk of breakdowns.

“Drastic steps, such as relocating an active race meet, should only be considered when it is certain to make a difference.”

The latest development comes a day after Churchill Downs and HISA each implemented safety and performance standards to address the spate of deaths.

HISA will conduct additional post-entry screening of horses to identify those at increased risk for injury. Its Integrity and Welfare Unit also will collect blood and hair samples for all fatalities for use while investigating a cause.

Churchill Downs announced it would immediately limit horses to four starts during a rolling eight-week period and impose ineligibility standards for poor performers. The track is also pausing incentives, such as trainer start bonuses and limiting purse payouts to the top five finishers instead of every finisher.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.