Thoroughbred Racing on NBC
Thoroughbred Racing on NBC is the de facto title for a series of horse races produced and broadcast by NBC Sports. Among its current personalites are hosts Tom Hammond and Bob Costas, along with analyst Gary L. Stevens, handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier, reporters Kenny Rice and Donna Barton Brothers, and track announcer Tom Durkin.
- 1949: NBC airs the first radio broadcast of the Kentucky Derby.
- 1981: NBC broadcasts the first million dollar thoroughbred race, the Arlington Million.
- 1999: NBC Sports earns rights to broadcast the Triple Crown series in 2001.
- 2005: A week after losing the Breeders' Cup to ESPN, NBC inks 5 year deals with Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment Corp.
- 2010: NBC renews its agreement with Churchill Downs through 2015.
- 2011: NBC Sports earns rights to broadcast the Triple Crown series through 2015.
- 2014: NBC renews its agreement with Churchill Downs through 2025.
The Triple Crown
NBC loses the Belmont Stakes
On October 4, 2004, after citing dispute about profit from the deal the New York Racing Association agreed to move the Belmont Stakes to ABC/ESPN starting in 2006. The Derby and Preakness would remain on NBC.
Also, as of May 21, 2005, the VISA Credit Card company, officially withdrew their sponsorship of the U.S. Triple Crown, starting in 2006. It relieved them of paying the $5,000,000 bonus to the owner of the horse that wins the Triple Crown. Triple Crown Productions is now sponsoring the races, as of 2006.
Some believe this was a result of the New York Racing Association's decision to break with the other two tracks on a television contract. NBC Sports continued to broadcast the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes rights until 2010. Triple Crown Productions was formed in 1986 with ABC; prior to that, the individual racing associations made their own deals with the TV networks.
NBC Reassembles The Triple Crown
On February 22, 2011, NBC announces deals to broadcast all three races in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes) through 2015. The deals reunite all three Triple Crown races on NBC for the first time since 2005, and will also include coverage on Versus of the races' Saturday undercards as well as the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Friday races.
Tom Hammond's tenure at NBC began in 1984, when he was named as a co-host of the inaugural Breeders' Cup alongside Dick Enberg. It was supposed to be a one-shot deal for Hammond, but NBC execs were so impressed, he ended up getting a long-term contract.
On March 24, 2001, under two months before NBC was supposed to broadcast the Kentucky Derby for the very first time, Hammond underwent an operation for diverticulitis, a disease that affects the colon. During the surgery, a portion of Hammond's colon was removed. However, even with the short amount of time between the Derby and his operation, Hammond managed to get healthy enough to make his dream of broadcasting his homestate's most famous sporting event become a reality on May 5, 2001.
Hammond wasn't so lucky in October 2002, when he underwent open-heart surgery. He ended up missing the Breeders' Cup that year. Bob Costas took Hammond's place at the hosting desk. It was the only Breeders' Cup Hammond had not been a part of. Costas was, by the way, already a part of NBC's Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup coverage, working as mainly the "story set-up man."