On several occasions have I written in favor of the idea of having a major horse race televised in conjunction with a football game; in particular, when an idea was floated a few years ago to have one at halftime of Monday Night Football (or, as is the case tonight, maybe between games). So it might be expected that I'd be pumped about ESPN's intention to televise either the Lady's Secret (first choice, with Zenyatta if she's still unbeaten) or Goodwood (Mine That Bird, presumably even if he's still winless since the skies opened up for he and Calvin Borel at Churchill), between college football telecasts on Saturday evening, October 10.
And in a different situation, I might see this is as a nice step forward by the network (especially if it were accompanied by any creative efforts to involve fans in the outcome of the race, which surely will not be the case). After all, there's certainly a chance that some casual or even non-racing fans may stick around between games to check out the race (scheduled for 7:30 PM, prime time in the east) and perhaps be drawn to watch the Breeders Cup.
However, in the context of the rest of the announcement of ESPN's prep race TV schedule, excuse me if I'm highly skeptical of their true motives. This fall's schedule continues ESPN's diminution of the sport, with no races for six important weeks, ignoring the entire Belmont meeting, and with most of the races that finally will be televised not even shown on the main network. So to me, the between-games race seems more like a token gesture; a bone - and not a very big one at that - thrown at an industry and a sport which clearly has very low standing. After all, those Santa Anita races on October 10, plus two from Keeneland, were deemed not even worthy of ESPN2, and were instead dumped onto ESPN Classic (!). They'll try to appease us with a few minutes of coverage on the big network between games (the following game generally starts at 7:45, so don't expect much in-depth analysis after the race). Indeed, only a single hour of full racing coverage - the Spinster and that all-important Bourbon Turf for two-year olds- will actually be on ESPN prior to the Breeders Cup all fall (the big Woodbine races on October 17th will be on ESPN2).
ESPN vice president Len DeLuca said:
"With racing on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic we feel we can engage sports fan [sic] of all varieties to generate the buzz and excitement we are looking for leading up to the Breeders' Cup in November."Well, it seems as if Mr. Len DeLuca thinks that us horse racing fans are a bunch of fucking idiots. That's like Paramount Pictures saying that they plan to release the next Eddie Murphy movie direct to the Fox Business Network to try and diversify his following. Seriously man, give me a break. ESPN is sticking horse racing on their other networks because it's low priority amongst its properties. Period. So please, don't give us that crap.