04/26/2017 9:11AM

Mike Tirico to take over as host of NBC's Triple Crown broadcasts


Mike Tirico, the NBC sportscaster who hosted his first racing broadcast last year, will take over hosting of NBC’s Triple Crown broadcasts this year from longtime host Tom Hammond, the network announced on Tuesday.

This is the second move by NBC in less than a year to place Tirico in more high-profile roles. Earlier this year, the network announced that Tirico would replace longtime host Bob Costas for its primetime Olympics coverage. Tirico’s first racing broadcast was hosting the prime-time coverage of last year’s Saturday Breeders’ Cup card.

The move also appears to be a semi-retirement for Hammond, 72, the Lexington, Ky., native who has worked at the network for 30 years, anchoring all of the network’s Breeders’ Cup broadcasts since the event’s inception in 1984. A release from NBC said that Hammond will host a racing-history special, “My Kentucky Home,” next week on NBCSN, the network’s sports channel, and that he will also play a role in coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, next year.

“NBC Sports is the home to the world’s premier horse racing, due in no small part to Tom’s passion, knowledge, and relationships in the sport,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports. “We are pleased that Tom is going to remain part of the NBC family and that we have someone of Mike’s caliber to succeed him on horse racing.”

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In addition to his horseracing duties, Hammond has been a play-by-play announcer for college basketball, college football, and NFL football. His Olympics specialties are track and field, figure skating, and gymnastics.

“As I embark on a less demanding schedule at NBC, I can rest assured that the coverage of Thoroughbred racing is in good hands,” Hammond said, in a statement. “That sport is very close to my heart, so I am pleased that Mike, a highly accomplished professional, will assume the role as leader of the superb NBC horseracing team. I wish them all the best going forward.”

Tirico, who worked for ESPN until 2016, will host the Triple Crown races from a table that includes commentators Randy Moss and retired Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey.

“Tom’s professionalism, presence and passion for the sport enhanced Triple Crown viewing for so many of us over the years,” said Tirico, in the release. “He perfectly set the tone and in the process set the standard for this role.”