Will `Pegasus' be pushed into greatness?


May 19, 2000|By Milton Kent

When the mind ticks off a list of some of the great champions of the modern sports era, it's difficult to ponder many of them without a great challenger.

Would the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty of the 1980s have been so highly regarded without the Boston Celtics, or could Muhammad Ali have achieved boxing immortality without three incredible fights against Joe Frazier?

Probably not, and the same could be said for horse racing. Two of the past three Triple Crown winners - Secretariat and Affirmed - had marvelous challengers, Sham and Alydar, respectively, to forge their reputations.

With the Preakness looming on the horizon, it's interesting to speculate if FusaichiPegasus, the Derby winner and tomorrow's overwhelming favorite, will not only be challenged but if his claim to greatness would be tarnished without a serious challenge.

ESPN racing anchor Chris Lincoln says there is historical precedence for a great horse to earn his place of honor without another to push him.

"If you look back at Citation and Whirlaway, they really didn't have outstanding competition, but yet they're stamped with greatness, and I think this horse would be too, if he wins," Lincoln said.

And there's the rub, winning the Triple Crown. In the past three years, Silver Charm, Real Quiet and Charismatic have each won the first two jewels only to fall short in the Belmont, but Lincoln thinks there's something regal about Fusaichi Pegasus.

"The old racing historians and traditionalists never really thought those three horses were worthy. They just didn't have that royal air about them," said Lincoln, who picked The Deputy in the Derby.

"But this horse has Mr. Prospector as his sire, and that stamped him right away as something special. Then, he has a Japanese owner, an English trainer and a Cajun jockey. He just has that lineage and great class."

Lincoln's work will be front and center of ESPN's coverage, much of which will be blacked out tomorrow here in Baltimore. Still, ESPN2 will air a 90-minute special today at 3:30, while ESPN will carry the Black-Eyed Susan race at 5 p.m. Then, ESPN2 will air a 30 minute handicapping special at 1 a.m.

Channel 2 begins its extensive coverage tonight at 7 with a one-hour special, "Preakness 125: The People Who Make It Happen," anchored by Stan Stovall and Mary Beth Marsden.

Once again, the station starts bright and early at 8 a.m., with wall-to-wall coverage of Preakness Day events, with Mary Bubala and Janet Roach hosting the first 90 minutes, followed by Marsden and Stovall. Among features planned for the show are pieces on ABC's Jim McKay, Fusaichi Pegasus, great jockeys, Pimlico's future, what the track's neighbors do to prepare for the race, life at the betting windows and on the track kitchen.

ABC will take over coverage at 4:30 for its final Preakness with McKay and Al Michaels sharing anchor duties, Charlsie Cantey, Dave Johnson and Hank Goldberg doing analysis and Lesley Visser reporting.

The network plans a feature on jockey Kent Desormeaux, who rode Fusaichi Pegasus to victory in the Derby and is the father of a deaf boy, as well as a piece on possible contenders, and a McKay essay on the Preakness.

Meanwhile, WBAL (1090 AM) kicks off its race coverage tonight with a preview edition of "SportsLine." Tomorrow, the station begins its day at Pimlico at 11 a.m., with Dave Durian, Jim West and Chick Lang anchoring from the jockey's terrace. Steve Melewski and Greg Sher will take over hosting duties at 2 p.m., handing it back to the original trio at 3:30, with network coverage of the race beginning at 5.

Change at the helm

Jody Shapiro, one of the most important figures in local sports broadcasting, is leaving Home Team Sports at the end of the month to join the NBA in the newly created position of vice president, business development, new media and television ventures.

Shapiro was with HTS from its launch in 1984, beginning as director of programming, and eventually rising to vice president and general manager. Under his stewardship, the Bethesda-based regional sports channel grew from being seen in 10 systems and 14,000 households to the current 4.7 million subscriber base on 276 systems spread over the mid-Atlantic.

More significantly, Shapiro, along with former executive producer and programming director Bill Brown, established a reputation of quality at HTS, creating unique and daring camera angles that had not been seen on local telecasts, and winning a host of Emmy awards to boot.

The channel had suffered a talent drain in recent years, as a series of production and on-air talent left, in part because of meddling from the clubs they telecast, most notably the Orioles. But Shapiro, who may have been replaced when HTS - currently owned by Viacom - is sold, leaves as an industry giant and will be sorely missed.


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