06/04/2008 11:00PM

Networks may not air Stephens, Manhattan


Two graded races scheduled for the Belmont Stakes undercard, the Woody Stephens Stakes and the Manhattan Handicap, might not be broadcast live on ESPN or ABC despite seven hours of live coverage on Saturday at the track, a spokesman for the networks said on Thursday.

The spokesman, Mark Mandel, said on Thursday that live broadcast plans for the two races, which are scheduled as the ninth and 10th races on the card, were unresolved, but that live coverage of the two races on the network's properties might be limited to ESPN 360, a broadcast service for Internet browsers and mobile platforms. ABC and ESPN are both owned by the Walt Disney Company.

"It's not certain yet," Mandel said on Thursday morning. "We're still tinkering with the format."

If the two races are not shown live on either ESPN or ABC, two horse racing networks that will also broadcast live at Belmont Park on Saturday, HorseRacing TV and Television Games Network, will be allowed to broadcast the races, according to Amy Zimmerman, the executive producer of HRTV. For all other races on the card, however, HRTV and TVG will be limited to replays on tape-delay, according to Mandel and Zimmerman.

The Grade 2 Stephens has a post of 4:56 p.m. Eastern. The Grade 1 Manhattan is scheduled for 5:36. Both are part of an all-stakes pick six that will carry a $1 million guarantee. The pick six begins with the sixth race, the Grade 2 True North Handicap (2:56), and ends with the 11th race, the Belmont Stakes (6:25).

ESPN, HRTV, and TVG will all begin their live coverage at noon. Live coverage will switch from ESPN to ABC at 5 p.m. Eastern for a two-hour broadcast. The ESPN and ABC broadcasts will be available in high definition.

The Belmont Stakes card also includes a $1 million guaranteed pick four running from the eighth race, the Acorn, through the Belmont. Another pick four without a guarantee will link the second race through the fifth.

Each race on the card will offer win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and daily double betting. Rolling pick threes will be offered on every race but the eighth. Superfectas will be available on the Belmont Stakes and the 13th race, but the minimum for the bet has been raised to $1, rather than a dime.

All betting outlets in the United States are expected to offer betting on the entire card from Belmont, in contrast to the first two races in the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. The wagering restrictions on those races upset a large number of racing fans.

On Derby Day, account wagering on the Derby and the preceding race, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, were limited to customers of Twinspires.com and XpressBet. No national account-wagering companies could offer the full undercard.

At the Preakness, account wagering on the card was limited to customers of Twinspires.com and XpressBet.