It's more than 2 minutes for ABC A DAY AT THE RACES


All you have to do with an NBA game, some folks will tell you, is watch the last two minutes. Using that same pretzel logic, viewers could wait until 5:31 p.m. today to watch the Preakness. After all, the whole race only lasts about two minutes.

But there's more to a horse race than "they're off" and "down the stretch they come." That's why ABC builds a 90-minute telecast around two minutes of racing.

If you can't be near D. Wayne Lukas or Shelley Riley, ABC's idea for today's show (4:30 p.m., channels 13, 7) is to put you there. And even if you don't know Shelley Riley from Chester A. Riley, you should have a pretty good idea well before race time.

"The philosophy is to bring the viewer into the racetrack," said Curt Gowdy Jr., producer of the Preakness telecast.

"If they tune in to see the race only, they can't take advantage of the perspective of the people behind the horses. We like to thread a story from the top of the show throughout."

The first stitch in that thread is Lil E. Tee, the Kentucky Derby champion. The show's opening will feature footage of Lil E. Tee -- likely to include his surprising Derby triumph -- accompanied by music from the movie "E.T." (Speaking of surprises, Arazi, phone home, s'il vous plais.)

"The Preakness is a race that is unique unto itself," Gowdy said, "but the story lines this year are many that come out of the Derby."

Gowdy said the program's first feature will be on Lil E. Tee and his owner (W. Cal Partee), trainer (Lynn Whiting) and jockey (Pat Day). This piece will include a review of the Kentucky Derby.

ABC also will profile Riley -- that's Shelley, not Chester A. -- and her rags-to-riches horse, Casual Lies. Other scheduled segments include a look at the newcomers -- horses in the Preakness that didn't run in the Derby -- and an interview with a man who might be spending a lot of time these days kicking himself, Larry Littman, Lil E. Tee's original owner.

ABC will use 18 cameras to cover the race, plus one in a blimp. You people in the infield, don't forget to smile for the blimp camera.

A new feature this year is a camera mounted on a 23-foot crane along the backstretch, Gowdy said. This camera, which debuted at the Derby two weeks ago, can move 360 degrees.

Three years ago, ABC began using steady cams, hand-held cameras that can maintain a balanced picture even while their operators are bouncing around. The steady cams are the reason that close-up pictures from the post parade don't appear herky-jerky.

The network also will mount three unmanned cameras in the starting gates. These could provide telling pictures, as in the case of Technology, who drew the No. 2 post and will have to wait for 12 other horses to be loaded into the gates. At the Derby, Technology grew quite restless in the gate, possibly contributing to his 10th-place finish.

Along with all the sights, listen to the sounds of the Preakness. ABC will have 164 microphones along the rail, 16 in the starting gates. With all the telestrators and HelmetCams introduced in recent years, the constantly improving sound quality of televised sports has been overlooked. But, as somebody once said about drag racing, if you're near it, you'll hear it.

And, if ABC succeeds in today's telecast, you'll get an up close and personal feeling.

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