Coverage offers plenty of insights, oversights

The Baltimore Sun

None of NBC's racing experts picked Curlin to take the Preakness, but that doesn't mean the network's telecast didn't finish in the money. A look at the highlights:

It was two-week-old news, but news nonetheless. Showing a replay of the Kentucky Derby, NBC broke the story that Hard Spun had clicked heels with Street Sense down the stretch at Churchill Downs as Street Sense took the lead. Hard Spun's jockey, Mario Pino, told NBC he didn't realize that's what had happened, but added he didn't think it had any bearing on the victory by Street Sense.

OK, we saw it. Any viewer paying even a little bit of attention could see how emotional Michael Matz was after his Chelokee won the Barbaro Stakes, named for his late Kentucky Derby champion. Did Bob Neumeier really have to point out a tear coming from the trainer's eye?

You got to have synergy. Speaking about accomplished trainer Todd Pletcher's winless record in Triple Crown races, host Bob Costas compared it to Phil Mickelson's trying to win a U.S. Open. And guess which network televises the U.S. Open?

The feature on Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel's racing roots captured a sense of place when he talked about his beginnings at small-time tracks where chickens might come running out onto the course and a horse sometimes would be disguised by being painted a different color.

Tom Hammond added a nice coda to the Borel piece by passing along an anecdote from two weeks ago, when he spotted Borel preparing to ride in a race just after winning the Derby, rather than understandably going off to celebrate. "I told the man I'd ride his horse," Hammond said Borel told him, "and I'm going to ride."

And Hammond passed along another good one. Talking about why Hard Spun trainer Larry Jones wears a cowboy hat even though he's from Kentucky and not someplace like Texas, Hammond said Jones told him, "But I'm from western Kentucky."

But, Tom, please, please, please ... there was nothing "ironic" to the fact that Street Sense's Carl Nafzger was the trainer of Unbridled, who was shown being beaten by Summer Squall in the 1990 Preakness.

I guess we didn't see his fastball. Interviewing trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Neumeier referred to Flying First Class jockey Mark Guidry as "Ron Guidry."

During WBAL's preview program, less than 10 minutes before the network telecast began, Channel 11's Gerry Sandusky reported that it was not clear about the status of Mending Fences, who went down with a leg injury in the 10th race, the Dixie Stakes. But ESPN already had reported, about five minutes earlier, that Mending Fences had to be euthanized.

Given what happened last year with Barbaro, maybe NBC could have made a bigger point about Mending Fences' fate. But it wasn't in the big race, and there would be no heroics this time. So what we got was a replay showing how Robby Albarado, the Preakness-winning jockey, was forced to jump off his mount in the 10th.

During part of the race replay isolated on Curlin, the horse dropped out of the bottom of the screen for several moments.

It was a small moment, but a telling one. Before being interviewed after the race, Borel stepped away to briefly commiserate with Nafzger, and NBC's cameras caught the exchange. The two displayed the horsemen's philosophical nature, a shrugging, "We just got beat" acceptance.

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