04/12/2004 12:00AM

Ratings static for Derby preps


The overnight television rating for Saturday's NBC broadcast of the day's three major Kentucky Derby prep races increased marginally compared from last year.

The 90-minute broadcast, which started at 4:30 p.m. Eastern and included the live runnings of the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, received a 1.6 rating, up 7 percent from last year's 1.5 rating, according to a spokeswoman for NBC, Kathy Connors. The show also included a taped-delayed airing of the Wood Memorial from Aqueduct, which went off at 4:15 p.m.

Both the 2003 broadcast and this year's had a 4 share. Each overnight rating point equals approximately 665,000 households. Share measures the percentage of televisions in use at the time. Final ratings will be released Thursday.

The broadcast, produced by NTRA Productions, included an unusual camera perspective for the stretch run of the Arkansas Derby. The camera, set up well before the finish line, followed the horses at an angle that did not clearly show how they finished.

Eric Wing, a spokesman for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said the director of the Arkansas coverage mistakenly "punched up the wrong camera" at the head of the stretch.

* Handle on the Big 3 Pick 3, a pick three wager linking the Wood, Blue Grass, and Arkansas Derby, was $1,216,66 this year, a 20.4 percent increase over last year. The payout this year was $359 for a $2 wager.