02/12/2013 12:07PM

Kentucky Derby preps to get extensive live NBC coverage

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Most of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby will be broadcast live this year on the NBC Sports Network, according to a Tuesday announcement from the Jockey Club, which is co-funding the broadcasts, and NBC.

Live coverage of races will include the March 30 Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby, the April 6 Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial, and the April 13 Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby. With the exception of the Blue Grass, which will appear on NBC during a 90-minute broadcast, all the races will be shown on the NBC Sports Network.

The schedule also includes a 30-minute broadcast March 23 on NBC Sports Network previewing the Triple Crown season.

NBC Sports Network, which is part of the sports package on most cable and satellite systems, is currently available in 80 million households, according to network distribution figures. By comparison, ESPN is available in approximately 100 million households. NBC has been aggressively seeking sports content for the network as a possible competitor to ESPN and the Fox family of regional sports networks.

The six races set to be broadcast by NBC and NBC Sports Network all occupy the highest tier of a new points system implemented by Churchill Downs determining starters for the Kentucky Derby. Winners of the races will be assured of starting berths in the race.

The Jockey Club decided last year to underwrite a series of broadcasts for Triple Crown preps as part of a five-year commitment to fund racing marketing initiatives. NBC also holds the broadcast rights to the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup.