NBC, Carr-Hughes Productions Pave Road to the Kentucky Derby

When the NBC Sports Group reassembled the Triple Crown in 2011, it promised that horse racing would become a major programming pillar. Two years later, the Peacock is making good on its word: the six-race Road to the Kentucky Derby series enters the gate on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) this weekend. Although the three-weekend series may not draw the interest — or production scale — of a Triple Crown race, NBC plans to make it feel like one.

“Our production strategy for this series is consistent with all of our horse-racing coverage: our goal is to make each telecast entertaining, informative, and inclusive for the common racing fan,” says Rob Hyland, lead producer for horse racing, NBC Sports Group. “We will continue to showcase the spectacle of each event, but we will always keep the competition pure.”

Carr-Hughes Is Back in the Saddle
Now in its second year on NBCSN, the Road to the Kentucky Derby (a collaboration between NBC Sports Group and The Jockey Club) includes coverage of six live races over the next three weekends, beginning this Saturday with the Florida Derby (Gulfstream Park) and Louisiana Derby (Fair Grounds Race Course).

All races are co-produced by NBC and Carr-Hughes Productions (which also works on NBC’s Summer at Saratoga series, U.S. Olympic Trials, USA Track and Field, Fight Night, and various other equestrian events). Hyland will produce the telecast at the front bench, as he will do for all of NBC’s Triple Crown and Breeders Cup races later this year.

“The Road to the Kentucky Derby series will introduce this year’s contenders and the compelling storylines associated with the [Derby],” says Hyland. “The Road to the Kentucky Derby gives our team of on-air announcers, production members, and technicians a great knowledge base, a robust footage archive, and the ability to strengthen relationships with the connections of the 2013 Derby field.”

A Two-Horse Production Race
Each Saturday, NBC Sports Network will carry live coverage of two races: one that is self-produced and another that primarily takes the clean feed produced at the other racetrack.

The primary race (Florida Derby on March 31, Santa Anita Derby on April 6, Blue Grass Stakes on April 13) will be produced on-site out of NEP SS14 and deploy about a dozen cameras, including four hard cameras, five handhelds (two of which are wireless RF units), and a jib.

As for the secondary sites, NBC will take the clean track feed from the Louisiana Derby on March 30 (NBC will also deploy its own handheld camera and reporter in the winner’s circle) and the Wood Memorial on April 6. On April 13, however, NBC will produce the Arkansas Derby in-house, using a four-camera complement.

GoPro and RED Saddle Up
Hyland and company will also continue to outfit jockeys and exercise riders with GoPro cameras in the days leading up to each race to give viewers the perspective of being “on board” some of the notable horses in each field. NBC will also roll out RED high-speed HD cameras at each of the races for ENG purposes.

NBC Sports Network’s coverage of the Road to the Kentucky Derby begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday March 30 with live coverage from Gulfstream Park and Fair Ground Race Course).