02/25/2014 1:50PM

Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby will air live on NBC Sports


Two major preps for the Kentucky Derby, the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 29 and the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park on April 5, will be broadcast live on NBC Sports, an official of the parent company of the two tracks confirmed on Tuesday.

The two races were picked up by NBC Sports after Breeders’ Cup officials approached the network about securing broadcast windows for the two preps, according to Tom Ludt, a senior vice president for the Stronach Group, the owner of Gulfstream and Santa Anita. The two tracks had to modify their post times slightly to fit into the windows, said Ludt, a former chairman of the Breeders’ Cup.

The Santa Anita Derby is scheduled to be run the same day as the Wood Memorial, the last major prep for the Kentucky Derby on the New York circuit. That race may also be broadcast live during the telecast, according to officials, though Eric Wing, a spokesperson for the New York Racing Association, declined to comment on Tuesday about the possibility of the Wood being added to the broadcast.

Racing organizations have been scrambling to find broadcast windows for major prep races for the Kentucky Derby since it became apparent at the beginning of the year that very few of the preps were scheduled to be broadcast live on television networks other than the sport’s two dedicated racing channels, HRTV and TVG. HRTV is owned by a partnership of Churchill Downs and the Stronach Group, and the network shows all of the live races from tracks owned by the two companies.

Under a deal that expires at the end of 2015, NBC has the broadcast rights to the three races of the Triple Crown. It also has a partnership deal with Breeders’ Cup to broadcast the Breeders’ Cup’s year-end event, along with races leading up to the event in various divisions. The 2014 television schedule for “The Road to the Breeders’ Cup” has yet to be released.

Officials for NBC Sports were not available for comment Tuesday.

The broadcast schedule for Derby prep races had looked extremely thin just several weeks ago. In January, only one major prep, the Blue Grass Stakes, was scheduled to be broadcast live, as part of a nine-broadcast series debuting on Fox Sports 1 this year. The Blue Grass Stakes was the only Derby prep race on the Fox Sports schedule when the series was announced.

The Fox Sports 1 series is being underwritten by the Jockey Club as part of an effort to increase the visibility of racing on television.