NBC Sports, ESPN Win Eclipse Awards for Television

Posted Jan. 3, 2017

NBC Sports has won the Media Eclipse Award for Television – Live Racing Programming, and ESPN has won the Media Eclipse Award for Television – Feature Programming.

The award winners were selected by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB).

NBC Sports was honored for its broadcast of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic, featuring the dramatic duel between Arrogate and California Chrome. The one-hour live primetime telecast from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, aired on NBC on Nov. 5 of last year. This is the 13th Media Eclipse Award in the Live Television category for NBC.

ESPN won for its news magazine program E:60 feature “Barnyard Buddies,” on the unusual relationships between racehorses and stable companion animals, The program aired on May 3, 2016. It is the sixth overall Feature Television Eclipse Award for ESPN and the second Eclipse Award for E:60, which won the Television Features category in 2012 for “Notinrwildestdremz,” about an abandoned and neglected Thoroughbred retuning to the races.

Each recipient will be presented a trophy at the 46th Annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony on Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The Eclipse Awards are presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders’ Cup and The Stronach Group, and produced by the NTRA.

As the culminating event of the 33rd Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park, NBC set the scene for the $5 million Classic, utilizing a full array of talent and production capabilities. The program focused on the overall prowess of pre-race favorite, the 5-year-old California Chrome, North America’s all-time richest horse, against the 3-year-old Arrogate, the lightly-raced Travers Stakes winner. Incorporating various camera angles around Santa Anita, NBC captured the excitement as California Chrome’s lead dwindled in the final yards and Arrogate prevailed.

The post-race analysis was heightened by Arrogate’s jockey, Mike Smith, in close conversation with the winner’s trainer, Bob Baffert, as the rider pointed out strategic moves he made at the top of the stretch to propel Arrogate to victory.

“Nearly 40 cameras were deployed to showcase two incredible days of racing set against the beautiful backdrop of Santa Anita Park and the San Gabriel Mountains,” said Rob Hyland, coordinating producer of NBC Sports Group’s horse racing coverage. “Our production team did an excellent job covering the dramatic finish of the Breeders’ Cup Classic between California Chrome and Arrogate. NBC Sports is fully committed to growing the sport of horse racing, and I am extremely proud of the high standards and passion our entire production team has for this sport.”

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships broadcast was produced by Billy Matthews and was directed by Jeff Simon. NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Classic was hosted by Mike Tirico and Tom Hammond, a veteran NBC Sports commentator; analysts were Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey, the Hall of Fame jockey and five-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner; handicappers Bob Neumeier and Eddie Olczyk; reporters Donna Brothers, Nick Luck, Carolyn Manno, Laffit Pincay III and Kenny Rice. Larry Collmus was the race caller.

Judges for the National Television – Live Racing category were: Stephen Nagler, Chief Executive at SCN Communications; Toni Slotkin, former ABC Sports award-winning producer, and Joel Feld, Executive Vice President, ONE World Sport, and former Executive Producer at NESN and the CBS Sports Network.

NBC Sports also earned an honorable mention in this category for its live telecast of the 2016 Kentucky Derby, which aired on May 7, 2016.

In “Barnyard Buddies,” the E:60 team traveled to California, New York and Kentucky to gather stories on how goats, chickens, donkeys and even a pig can be invaluable companions to Thoroughbreds. The feature, narrated by reporter Ryan McGee, contained interviews with Triple Crown-winning trainers Bob Baffert and Billy Turner, and Michael Blowen of Old Friends Farm.

“We wanted to produce a fun, light-hearted story, but at the same time explain that horses are ‘pack animals’ that tend to get nervous,” said Tonya Malinowski, E:60 associate producer. “They need companions to keep them calm and travel with them, and a calm and happy horse performs better.”

One example of calming influence occurred in 2010 when future Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer was flown from Florida to Kentucky to run in the Turfway Park Handicap, and was separated from his stable friend, a goat named Google. At Turfway, Eldaafer was not himself, acting up and not keeping his mind straight. Back in Florida, it was discovered that Google wasn’t himself either, without Eldaafer. So Google was flown to Kentucky to join Eldaafer at Turfway. Reunited for three days, Google helped settle down Eldaafer, who went on to win the $500,000 race. In retirement at Old Friends Farm, Eldaafer was joined by a second goat named Yahoo.

Other examples of successful companions for racehorses in the piece included another goat, named Pickles, who took care of the stakes winning filly Weemissfrankie; Sancho, a cat, partnering with 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Runhappy; and a one-year-old donkey named Fergie that kept the company of the filly Can’t Be Dazzled.

In addition to Malinowski, Heather Lombardo and Mike Johns were supervising producers, and Megan Anderson was the field producer. Nate Hogan was the editor. Andy Tennant is Executive Producer of E:60.

Runner up honors in the Feature television category went to Comcast Sports Philadelphia for “The Horse of a Lifetime – American Pharoah,” produced by Greg Magruder, which aired January 16, 2016. Judges for the National Television – Features category were Drew Cook, former WAVE-TV chief photographer; Dave Johnson, television producer, Sirius XM Radio Host, and longtime racing voice of the Triple Crown; and Patty Wofle, former television producer.

Tickets to the Eclipse Awards are available for $425 each. Dinner tickets and reservations for the official event hotels – the Turnberry Isle Miami and the Grand Beach Hotel – can be accessed by contacting Casey Hamilton of the NTRA at chamilton@ntra.com.

The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies. The Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements in North America have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories. Those awards are voted by NTRA, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB). Eclipse Awards also are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing.

--Edited NTRA releases