One-time long shot Charismatic is now the network's favorite


June 04, 1999|By Milton Kent

It's funny how a little winning can change perception.

Three weeks ago, hardly anyone could have picked Charismatic out of a lineup of horses or humans. The former claiming horse had just won the Kentucky Derby, but got so little respect that he didn't even go off as the second choice in the Preakness, much less the favorite.

Only one person on the ABC announce team, Jim McKay even picked Charismatic to win the Preakness, but now that he has, and stands a win in tomorrow's Belmont away from the Triple Crown, the network will ride him as hard as jockey Chris Antley during tomorrow's telecast (Channel 2, 4: 30 p.m.).

"I think it would be riveting for Charismatic to win the Triple Crown, particularly because of the stories," said Al Michaels, who will anchor the telecast with McKay. "It's a movie script. It would be a wondrous thing for this horse to win the Triple Crown."

Charismatic's owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis, of course, stand to pick up a $5 million bonus if their horse becomes the 12th to win the Triple Crown and the first since Affirmed did it 21 years ago.

But the racing industry could get a badly needed shot in the arm as well if Charismatic pulls it off, especially after Real Quiet and Silver Charm reached the same point the last two years only to fail on the doorstep.

And the timing of Charismatic's pursuit of immortality couldn't be better for the tracks, since the rights for the Triple Crown races go up for bid this year, amid rumors that all of the Big Four networks are interested in grabbing the telecasts.

Besides a raft of Charismatic-related stories, including a history of the horse, going back to his great-grandfather, Secretariat, and a trip to Antley's South Carolina home, ABC has been given permission to use a camera mounted to a 4x4 vehicle that was scratched at the Derby.

The camera will be deployed low, and has been nicknamed the "Ben Hur Cam," as it will give something of a look of the famous chariot race scene from the Oscar-winning film. Here's hoping Cleopatra hasn't been invited to ride.

WBAL (1090 AM) offers radio coverage of the proceedings, beginning at 5 p.m.

Batter up!

Now that the hullabaloo about all the havoc they were going to wreak on the Grand Old Game has settled, Fox is approaching its fourth baseball season, which opens tomorrow, as grizzled old veterans of the game.

And why not? Their technological advances, particularly in the area of sound, are the envy of the industry, and while ESPN has been doing it longer and well, Fox officials, who captured three Emmys for their coverage, feel they are a part of the game.

"We need to continue doing what we've done the first three years very, very well," said executive producer Ed Goren.

After placing microphones on coaches and managers and mounting cameras in catchers' masks, Goren said there will be no great new pieces of technical wizardry this season, though the network intends to refine some of its stat graphics.

On the air, the biggest change is the addition of Keith Olbermann to the studio crew, alongside Steve Lyons. The pair will anchor the pre-game show (Channel 45, 1 p.m.), just before the Yankees-Mets brawl.

In a bloodless coup, Lyons has become the singular host of the kid-oriented "In the Zone." In this week's installment (Channel 45, 12: 30 p.m.), Orioles catcher Charles Johnson will lead viewers back to his Fort Pierce, Fla., hometown and his old high school, where his father is the coach.

Around the dial

NBC's weekend menu is full and varied. As you might expect, the network will take today's Andre Agassi-Dominik Hrbaty French Open semifinal (Channel 11, 10 a.m.), leaving the Andrei Medvedev-Fernando Meligeni match to USA at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, back on the Peacock, the French Open women's final airs on tape tomorrow at noon, with the men's final live Sunday at 9 a.m. The U.S. Women's Open golf tournament wraps up tomorrow and Sunday at 3 p.m., with NBA conference finals airing tonight at 9 and tomorrow and Sunday, with the pre-game each day at 6 p.m.

This week's NASCAR stop is in Dover, and TNN will carry tomorrow's Busch series race at 1 p.m. and Sunday's Winston Cup race at 12: 30 p.m. The PGA Tour is in Ohio for the Memorial Tournament and CBS (Channel 13) airs third-round coverage tomorrow at 3 p.m., and final-round, 18-hole coverage Sunday at 2 p.m.

Finally, Roy Jones Jr. seeks to unify the light heavyweight titles in a bout with Reggie Johnson tomorrow from Biloxi, Miss., at 9: 30 p.m. on HBO.

Pub Date: 6/04/99

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