05/29/2008 11:00PM

Belmont card open to all outlets


After two consecutive Triple Crown races that presented major hurdles to many horse racing fans seeking to watch and wager on the races and their undercards, the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York will offer wide-open viewing and betting opportunities.

Three major networks - ESPN, HRTV, and TVG - will offer viewers live coverage from Belmont Park on June 7, beginning at noon Eastern and running until 5 p.m., when ESPN's sister network, ABC, will take over exclusive live coverage for the Belmont Stakes during a two-hour broadcast. In addition, all major account-wagering platforms will be able to offer betting on the Belmont and its undercard, in contrast to the situation facing bettors for the Kentucky Derby on May 3 and the Preakness Stakes on May 17.

For the Derby, customers of national account-wagering platforms were prevented from betting on the Derby undercard, with the exception of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. Betting on the Woodford Reserve and the Derby itself was restricted to customers of Twinspires.com and XpressBet, the account-wagering platforms owned and operated by Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment Corp.

For the Preakness and its undercard, only customers of Twinspires.com and XpressBet could wager on the races, upsetting customers of the two largest account-wagering companies in the United States, TVG and Youbet.com, which were shut out due to a lack of an agreement with TrackNet, the simulcast-marketing company owned by Churchill and Magna.

None of those restrictions will apply to the Belmont. The New York Racing Association, which operates Belmont Park, made the decision late last year to open up its signal to all major carriers. As a result, wagering on the Belmont Stakes and its undercard will be available on Twinspires.com, XpressBet, Youbet.com, TVG, and all regional account-wagering services, according to officials at Belmont and the account-wagering companies.

Although TVG and HRTV will both broadcast from live studios at Belmont during the undercard, only ESPN will be able to show the races live, according to Mark Mandel, a spokesman for the network, due to the network's contract with Belmont Park. TVG and HRTV will be able to show the races on tape-delay immediately after the races have been run, Mandel said.

In addition to its Saturday coverage, HRTV is also planning several special shows during Belmont week focusing exclusively on the race. On Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., HRTV will broadcast shows featuring news about the Belmont Stakes. On Friday at 9 p.m., HRTV will offer a 30-minute preview of the race. After the race on Saturday, HRTV will conduct a wrap-up of the race beginning at midnight.

TVG will broadcast live from Belmont on both Friday and Saturday, beginning at noon. For the Saturday broadcast, TVG will also telecast live races from other tracks, but the main focus will be on the Belmont card, according to Tony Allevato, TVG's executive producer.

"We have a responsibility to TVG's viewers to show them races from other tracks, but the races on the undercard are better betting races than the Belmont, to be honest, and there's a million-dollar pick six and pick four we're going to focus heavily on," Allevato said.

TVG will also air a one-hour preview show of the Belmont Stakes at 6 p.m. on Friday. Features focusing on past failed Triple Crown bids and a half-hour show featuring interviews with trainer Rick Dutrow and jockey Kent Desormeaux - the connections of Belmont favorite Big Brown - will also air repeatedly in the run-up to Saturday, Allevato said. A wrap-up of the Belmont will follow immediately after ABC's coverage.