NBC will wait to make its Preakness move

ON MEDIA

TV/Radio

May 18, 2007|By RAY FRAGER

When it comes to horse racing's Triple Crown, you can have your colorful moments or your colorful people. Sometimes, television gets lucky and has both.

That was the case in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. Street Sense's stirring rally from the back of the pack would have been plenty to stamp the race as one to remember. But combine the run with jockey Calvin Borel's emotional reaction to victory and you had something truly memorable.

NBC can't count on a repeat during tomorrow's Preakness telecast (5 p.m., WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4), but good things can happen even with those less effusive than Borel. And the producer of NBC's telecast said he doesn't feel that the network needs to force the issue.

"You don't need to jump up on a soapbox and endear yourself to the public," Sam Flood said. "You have the moments."

Take Carl Nafzger, for example. The trainer of Street Sense hasn't demonstrated the on-air personality of, say, Bob Baffert, but Flood pointed out that Nafzger was the key player in one of the Derby's enduring images - something NBC replayed during the Derby preview. When Nafzger's Unbridled won in 1990, he called the race for owner Frances Genter, 92, who couldn't see what was happening on the track. It culminated with Nafzger hugging Genter and saying: "You've won the Kentucky Derby, Mrs. Genter! I love you."

Speaking of love and memories, Flood said NBC doesn't plan to ride the tragic/inspirational story of Barbaro for long tomorrow, even though everyone is back at the scene of the late thoroughbred's devastating injury. The Barbaro component tomorrow will be "very brief," he said, mostly a matter of a report on the Barbaro Stakes, which features Chelokee, a horse conditioned by Barbaro's trainer, Michael Matz.

"I think we've told that story very well and very completely," Flood said.

As far as other stories NBC will tell, Flood said it plans a feature on Borel, including a visit to his hometown in Louisiana. Otherwise, "we're looking for the quirky story." Which takes us to the Pimlico infield.

"The infield is one of the biggest outdoor parties you'll ever see," Flood said. "There's a joy out there that's fun to capture. It's a neat community that develops for the [day]."

Stevens' pick

NBC analyst Gary Stevens, a two-time Preakness winner as a jockey, picks the first three finishers this way: Street Sense, Hard Spun, Circular Quay. "I have no reason to shy away from Street Sense after his Derby win last week," Stevens said in a news release, "but it won't be a walkover for him. Pimlico plays a little more favorably to speed horses, but Street Sense will be tough to catch. [Trainer] Todd Pletcher has never had a Derby starter run in the Preakness, but Circular Quay was coming off of an eight-week layoff, and the Derby could actually work as a prep race for him for the Preakness."

Eye in the sky

The recent Derby marked the first time the network had used a live shot from the blimp during the race. Flood said improved camera technology has allowed greater use of the blimp position for actual race coverage as opposed to just panoramic shots of the track. To which I can add only, "Oh, the humanity!" (Ask somebody old about the Hindenburg.) ...

Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is giving a wider audience a taste of HorseRacing TV by carrying its Preakness preview show today at 11 a.m. HRTV, unlike MASN, is a digital-level channel on most cable systems. ...

Quint Kessenich, the former Johns Hopkins lacrosse goalie, is pulling a horse racing-lacrosse doubleheader weekend. He'll work on ESPN's Preakness Day coverage tomorrow (noon to 5 p.m.) and then cover the NCAA lacrosse quarterfinals at Navy on Sunday (noon) for ESPNU.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

Read Ray Frager's blog entries on NASCAR and the NBA at baltimoresun.com/mediumwell.

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