With four hours to kill and seven races on tomorrow's Breeders' Cup card at Belmont Park, NBC should have no shortage of horses, jockeys and trainers to cover.
But the focus from sign-on (Channel 11, 11:30 a.m.) to sign-off will be Cigar and his quest to make history.
The Maryland-bred horse, the overwhelming favorite to win the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the day's featured race, is looking not only for his 12th straight victory and the honor of being the richest single-season earner in racing history, but is seeking a place among the greatest thoroughbreds of all time.
"I think he's on the verge of greatness," said NBC's Tom Hammond, the show's host. "In my mind, the greatest horses of all time were Man o' War and Secretariat. I certainly wouldn't put him that high, but I do rank him among the next tier of greats with Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Forego, Kelso. The only thing he hasn't done is carry weight like greats of the past."
Said race caller Tom Durkin: "I don't see how Cigar could ever reach those heights [with Secretariat and Man o' War], but he's right there with all the greats. He belongs in that pantheon of great American thoroughbreds."
Selected as a 3-5 favorite after Wednesday's draw, Cigar should only be nominally challenged in the Classic by Peaks and Valleys, Halling, or Maryland-bred Concern, according to Hammond.
NBC plans between-race features on Serena's Song, one of the favorites in the Distaff race; jockey Angel Cordero Jr. who is returning to the saddles this fall after a nearly four-year absence forced by injuries he suffered in an accident; and trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who will have horses in the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies races.
TNT will wrap up a successful half-season of NFL telecasts Sunday night with the New York Giants-Washington game from RFK Stadium, starting with "Pro Football Tonight" at 7 p.m. The game feed can be seen on Channel 20 at 8 p.m.
Everybody's favorite hard-hitting reporter, NBC's Ahmad Rashad, will be host of a one-hour preview of the NBA season Sunday (Channel 11, 1 p.m.), and the final PGA event of the year, the Tour Championship, which features the top 30 money winners of the season, wraps up tomorrow (1:30 p.m.) and
Sunday (3 p.m.) on ABC (Channel 2).
A real Sparky dude
While the rest of his fourth-grade pals in Alpine, Utah, have been soaking up math, science, English and the like, 9-year-old David "Sparky" Mortimer has been taking in the World Series at David Letterman's expense, as the "Late Show's" official Fall Classic correspondent.
"They called me last Thursday and asked me if I wanted to cover the World Series. I said, "Sure,' " Sparky said from his Cleveland hotel room the other day.
Sparky, who does semi-regular reports for a Salt Lake City television station, was first discovered doing play-by-play of BYU games from his seat and had been a guest on the Letterman show a couple of times before this stint.
Sparky, who is accompanied on this trip by his father, says he imagines Letterman "as kind of weird," and as "kind of a current-events jokester."
He seems well on his way to his goal of being a big-time network sports type. During one report, Sparky got a couple of Cleveland players to take him through the list of sports cliches as well as showing him how to spit like a big-leaguer, and he landed a dinner-time interview with a dour Ted Turner.
A wise-beyond-his-years Sparky took getting stiffed for an interview by Eddie Murray in stride, saying, "He never talks to the media. It wasn't a surprise. He stopped talking to the media when he was in Baltimore. Somebody wrote an article early in his career that he didn't like. That's OK."
.' Hey, this kid really is smart.