NBC’s Hammond: Kentucky Derby most complex to cover

It isn’t a stretch to say that 95 percent of the country couldn’t tell you the name of one horse in the Kentucky Derby Saturday. And maybe that number is low.

But many of us will watch simply because it is the Kentucky Derby. It is the oldest continous sports event (happy No. 138) in the the United States, held annually in the first Saturday of May.

Last year’s race drew an audience of 14.11 million people on NBC. Yes, there’s something to said about tradition. Long live the Run for the Roses.

NBC will have complete coverage, starting at 11 a.m. (Eastern) on NBC Sports Network and then at 4 p.m. on NBC.

Tom Hammond returns as co-host. The sport is in his blood. At one point in college, he thought he would have a career in horse racing.

Funny how things works out. As a broadcaster, he wound up with a front-row seat, playing an integral role in covering the biggest races.

I talked to Hammond yesterday. He made an interesting comment about the Kentucky Derby being the most complex event he covers. Hammond also calls Notre Dame football and will handle track at the Olympics for NBC.

Hammond: A football game takes place in a finite area. You know there’s going to be 11 on each team. Here, there is two minutes of action, and yet everything else is so important to capture what the Derby is all about. Somebody says, ‘It’s a horse race, it last two minutes.’ It’s so much more.

The Olympics is the king of the stories, with athletes from all over the world pursuing their life’s dream. In horse racing, there’s just so many different aspects to it: the owners, the jockeys, the trainers. The horse themselves have so many different personalities. To be able to weave all those stories together is a dream come true for a sportscaster. It’s a gold mine of stories to tell.

What about the unpredictability of the race?

Hammond: There are 20 horses in this race, and often the best horse doesn’t get through. It’s so complex in that way. The other great thing about it is that it’s an any man’s race. The owner with the most money doesn’t always win. Multi-millionaires have spent their whole life trying to win the Derby and haven’t been successful. There’s so many different possibilities.




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