11/05/2001 12:00AM

Breeders' Cup TV presence surpasses Nielsen

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ELMONT N.Y. - It is an important asset to racing to have five hours of live television on Breeders' Cup Day. The time enables NBC to develop features that help educate and entertain viewers, said Tim Smith, commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

"I recently reviewed the tapes of the NBC telecast of the Breeders' Cup, and they did an excellent job," Smith said. "I particularly liked the feature on Tiznow and the dramatic events centering on his Classic victory last year. This segment was shown as a lead-in to this year's Classic, and when Tiznow won a second time, in thrilling fashion, it became even more appropriate."

The final Nielsen figures for Breeders' Cup Day were released last week and showed a rating of 1.7, with each rating point representing 1,060,000 households with their television sets on. The show drew a share of 5, representing the percentage of households watching a specific program.

"The actual audience for the Breeders' Cup program was much higher than that," Smith said. "It is higher by perhaps several hundred thousand, representing fans attending the races at other tracks around the country who are not included in these figures."

Smith noted that the ratings of other sports put the Nielsen figures in perspective. On the Saturday before the Breeders' Cup, NBC showed the Notre Dame-USC football game, which drew a rating of 2.1 and a 6 share. On the Sunday before the Breeders' Cup, NBC showed the final 18 holes of a PGA golf tournament, which had a rating of 1.8 and a share of 4.

The competition on Breeders' Cup Saturday was particularly keen, with college football the principal opponent. The battle between those two then-undefeated giants, Nebraska and Oklahoma, was considered one of the most important of recent seasons.

"The competitive situation changes from year to year, of course, but what doesn't change is the high quality, from a demographic point, of the racing audience. The telecast is highly regarded," said Smith.

Tale of two fine fillies

Strolling Belle was an odds-on favorite in Saturday's $108,500 Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares. She stumbled at the start, lost her position, and got caught up in heavy traffic en route, and that was the good news.

There will be another day for her, but in the meantime the story is all Rochelle's Terms, a 4-year-old daughter of Private Terms who came from well off the pace under a fine ride by Robbie Davis to win by a half-length. She is a filly who has had a number of physical problems but who has always persevered, and her first stakes victory came as a moment of exoneration for trainer Howard Tesher.

"She showed early on that she had ability, but there was always a little setback or physical problem that kept her from doing her best," he said. "She seems to be fine now. It was good to see her run the race. We always felt it was within her scope."

Rochelle's Terms is owned by retired New York advertising executive Gary Katz, who came into racing a few years ago with the purchase of a few young horses at the Ocala Breeders' sale. He landed this filly for $82,000, named her for his wife, and the filly displayed a keen sense of timing by winning the Turnback the Alarm Handicap on Rochelle Katz's birthday. The victory increased the horse's earnings to almost $235,000. Tesher is hopeful there will be more paydays ahead.

"She likes to settle in stride and looks like she wants to go a distance of ground," he said. "She also has a penchant for Aqueduct. We're thinking of the Ladies Handicap at a mile and a quarter in December."

Strolling Belle was using the Turnback the Alarm as a prep for the Ladies, so there is a good chance of a rematch for these two fine fillies.