FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
2013 KENTUCKY DERBY CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Operator: Good day and welcome to the NBC Sports Group’s 2013 Kentucky Derby conference call. Today’s call is being recorded.
At this time I would like to turn the call over to Adam Freifeld. Please go ahead.
Adam Freifeld: Great thank you Ann and thanks everyone for joining us on the call today. A few programming notes before we get going. The 139th Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, the first Saturday in May as nearly always.
Coverage on Saturday starts 11 o’clock Eastern on the NBC Sports Network. A lot of undercard races and then it shifts at 4 o’clock to NBC.
Today NBC Sports Network has covered from 4-6 Derby Classics and some live racing and tomorrow of course is the Oaks at 5 o’clock proceeded by another Derby Classics show.
There will be a transcript available at NBCSportsGroupPressbox.com later today and a replay a couple hours after the call ends at 719-457-0820 and the passcode is 6386181. I will repeat that number again after the call.
Happy to be joined today by a long time host of horseracing on NBC, Tom Hammond, our expert analyst’s in the booth with Tom, Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey. Our handicappers and resident wise guys, Bob Neumeier and Mike Battaglia, Larry Collmus.
Our producer of NBC Sports horseracing coverage, Rob Hyland and a special guest today our friend and colleague, the three-time Derby winning jockey, Gary Stevens who has come out of retirement. He will saddle Oxbow in Saturday’s derby.
Let’s kick things off with some opening comments from Tom.
Tom Hammond: Well thank you Adam always happy to be associated with the Kentucky Derby. It really is one of the truly great sporting events in America and it is such a large undertaking on behalf of NBC to bring it to the fans around America, over 250 people I think here.
More cameras than the Super Bowl, Rob Hyland tells me, and it is a big production and it deserves to be because it is truly a slice of Americana.
This year I think it is a pretty compelling derby. You can make a good case for 6 or 8 of the horses and the other 14 or so are not far behind. So I think it is going to be a very contentious race.
Some people are saying that these are kind of average maybe because they haven’t run so fast yet. But I think that that has yet to be decided.
And if you are a veteran of these calls that I have been on prior to other derbys you know that I would say that thoroughbred racing is a broadcaster’s dream because there are so many good stories.
Stories of the horses, the trainers, the jockeys and next to the Olympics the greatest stories occur to me in thoroughbred racing and this year no exception in fact maybe more than most.
We have Todd Pletcher who has tied his own record while saddling five horses in this derby. You have the Sunshine Boys, Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens teaming up again.
But I think that the most compelling stories this time are the jockeys. You have Gary Stevens. I knew I should have let him talk more because he has abandoned me at the desk and he is going back to riding again.
He is obviously a lot happier in the saddle then he was sitting next to me. But you have Rosie Napravnik who last year became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks and this time trying to become the first female to win the Kentucky Derby itself.
Johnny Velazquez who chose to ride Verrazano over Orb and the day after at the Wood Memorial suffered an injury and had just returned to riding this week. So trying to overcome those injuries and he will be aboard Verrazano, the unbeaten horse.
And then maybe the biggest of all is Kevin Krigger, the jockey on Goldencents. He has tried to become the first African American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby since 1902. And in the early years of the Kentucky Derby a black jockey has dominated the action.
I think Murphy won three times. Jimmy Winkfield was the last in 1902. So Kevin Krigger with a picture of Jimmy Winkfield in his locker is hoping to become the first African American jockey to win in 110 years. So, lots of good storylines at this year’s Kentucky Derby looking forward to a great broadcast.
Adam Freifeld: Thank you Tom. Usually at this point in the call we go to Gary Stevens, so let’s go to Gary Stevens.
Gary Stevens: Thank you Adam. No doubt it was special walking on to TV compound today, the first time I have been over here and it is like when I was retired from riding and walking up to the jock’s room and I am going to miss my seat believe it or not Tom sitting up there. You always did let me talk plenty.
But I am very excited to be back in the saddle. Very appreciative of the support that NBC Sports Group has given me and we have had weekly conversations. Rob Hyland, our producer and I dating back for a couple of months now.
And I didn’t know whether I was going to be in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby and it turns out that I am on one of those 14 horses that Tom was talking about that may not be far behind.
And I can just remember back in 1995, the horse Thunder Gulch fits through a race prior to the Kentucky Derby and the Bluegrass and ((inaudible)) under the radar a little bit and wound up in the winner’s circle.
So I am open for a little bit of déjà vu there. I have seen a couple of things already this morning. Our opening for the show and a couple of features that are just outstanding and I am sure the telecast is going to be the best one that we have seen with all the storylines and what not.
But I just hope that I am going to be a little bit greedy here and hope to become a main storyline of the race. I hope that everybody has a great show and everybody enjoys and everybody gets around there safe.
Adam Freifeld: Great. Gary thanks for joining us and best of luck to you on Saturday. We will go to our analyst now starting with Randy, some quick comments
Randy Moss: Well the last time I sat next to Gary is about 15 pounds less of him it seems right now. You know we are all obviously rooting for him to have a heck of a race.
From a nuts and bolts perspective it is really pretty amazing how often in hindsight the Kentucky Derby is won by the best horse. The problem nowadays more so than ever is trying to identify who that best horse is before the race because horses are running less and less often by the time they get to the Kentucky Derby.
They are more likely racing ever before. I think in terms of starts per horse this is the Number 2 least experienced field in Kentucky Derby history. So a lot of these horses haven’t seen certain distances that they will be confronting on the Kentucky Derby.
A lot of them are still improving mentally and physically and it is difficult to tell, you know, exactly where, you know, their upper potential is.
So that is always the challenge for those of us who are trying to figure out who is going to win the Kentucky Derby. Who has got that inherent potential to take it to the next level as Tom was talking about the way horses so often do on the first Saturday of May.
A lot of good storylines as Tom mentioned. It makes it a lot of fun. It makes it very interesting to cover. And it is just a very challenging race to try to figure out what the outcome is going to be.
I think I am like seemingly 90% of the people that you run into on the back stretch this week Orb is training exceptionally well and I go into this weekend thinking he is clearly the horse to beat.
Adam Freifeld: Great thanks and Jerry.
Jerry Bailey: Yes you know I am the guy that has always thought it just takes so much luck to even get to the Kentucky Derby and so many things can go wrong in the week or two leading up and ((inaudible)) for a rider at least has always been foremost on my mind.
And I just don’t think anybody really got killed in yesterday but having said that when the gate opens a great post can become a bad post with a stumble here or there.
And even though everybody looks like they have a pretty good shot leaving the starting gate there is a lot of luck still to come. I think you go from Todd Pletcher having five chances setting a record number of starters to Shug McGaughey who only has one. But his bullet is a pretty live one in there.
So I think at least going into the race it looks like nobody has got an excuse, at least on paper going in, but then you have the rain factor. And that can change a lot of things as the day progresses how much we have or don’t have and it certainly changes the mindset of some of the jockeys.
So although it feels like it is pretty well firmed up there are a lot of questions to be answered yet.
Adam Freifeld: Okay thanks. Jerry moving on to Mike Battaglia. Mike has set the morning line for Churchill Downs for – I don’t want to date you Mike but I think it is over 40 years.
Mike Battaglia: That just means I am old Adam. It has been a long time and you know the Derby is always the most challenging race that you look at. I mean Randy alluded to it before.
A lot of these horses are facing each other for the first time. They are carrying more weight than they ever did. They are getting out there with 19 other horses. That is something that they will never do again once they go to Europe.
So, you know, it is really a tough thing for any of these horses to accomplish and yes luck plays a big part of it. You have got to get a good ride. You have to get good position.
Normally the best horse Randy was talking about yes they will win but they will usually come back and run well in the Preakness. That usually tells if the best horse won the Kentucky Derby.
I am a big Orb man, have been from the start. I had Verrazano being the favorite up until this week really when I have been going over to the track in the mornings and all the buzz is about Orb.
He looks great on the track and kind of switched over to Orb as a favorite and I have been on him for a long time so that is going to be my top pick. I am an Orb guy.
Adam Freifeld: All right thanks Mike and now the Derby according to Bob Neumeier.
Bob Neumeier: Yes I just want to pick up a couple of points to what Mike and Randy were talking about. The difficulty in winning the race is obvious. So Mike mentioned the distance for all of these horses.
Interesting most of the horses that you will see in the race have never run at Churchill Downs in a race before. The majority of them having run it at Churchill Downs.
In fact two have ever won a race here at Churchill Downs and they have both been long shots. One of them is Gary Stevens, Oxbow and the other one is Frack Daddy.
So you got a feel for who will take the track and people have been watching these horses workout all week and so there has been a bandwagon that is clearly on Orb’s back because he has been the most sensational worker if you will on the racetrack this week.
So when you think about the fact that most of the horses have never run here. If you believe that those who adapted in Churchill Downs surface are their best bests and clearly Orb stands out in that regard.
One quick point about how difficult a race it is to win. The two trainers will be focusing on a Todd Pletcher and Shug McGaughey. Todd Pletcher has won everything under the sun probably the Number 1 trainer each and every year. He has won it one time.
Shug McGaughey in his early 60s, highly respected, fit stable, easy goer back in the late 80s. He has never won a Kentucky Derby. So when you combine Pletcher and McGaughey and they have only run one Derby it just underscores how tough a race it is to win.
Adam Freifeld: Right thanks Neumeier. We will go to Larry Collmus who is calling the race. Larry do you have it set on how the horses will look as they come down the stretch?
Larry Collmus: I have been studying them quite a bit over the past few months getting ready for this race. Normally for a race caller to prepare for calling a race it takes about a half an hour or so but for the Kentucky Derby it takes about three, four months to start looking at these horses and getting them engrained in your head.
Just a couple of years ago I was the new guy on the beat and now I feel like a grizzled veteran calling my third Kentucky Derby this year.
And of course in addition to trying to keep track of the 20 horses that are running in the race you also want to try to incorporate a lot of the storylines especially the ones that Tom Hammond mentioned at the beginning there.
I have all that in my head too when I am calling this race. There is just so much going on and keeping track of 20 3-year-olds is not the easiest thing and it is definitely the most difficult race for a race caller to call in this country.
But also a race that I wouldn’t switch places with anybody. I am so happy to have the opportunity to do it and I can’t wait for Saturday to come around.
Adam Freifeld: Great thanks Larry and before we open it up to calls, questions from the callers. Let’s hear it from Rob Hyland who is our producer and puts this whole show together. Rob.
Rob Hyland: Thanks Adam. Like Larry and everyone else in this room I can’t wait for Saturday either. The Derby is one of America’s greatest sporting events. It uniquely combines atmosphere and competition, you know, from the blue-bloods of Millionaire’s Row and to the Rocking infield this day has something for everyone.
In fact Kenny Rice one of our reporters will give a tour of the new exclusive mansion. You have heard of Millionaire’s Row well now there is something even more exclusive than that.
And on the flip side as Mike Battaglia talked about earlier, this will be his 42nd Kentucky Derby but he will be making his first trip to the infield. So we hope to give the viewers something for everyone from the high fashion to the infield.
We have got a deep team of announcers 12 in total, 50+ cameras, super slow motion, high speed cameras. And the challenge of this event is that it is about 150 acres at Churchill Downs.
So it is not a football field. It is not a basketball arena. There are a number of technical challenges associated with covering an event this big.
But we’ve got the best technical and production staff in the business to take care of that. And we’re looking forward to it.
Tom touched upon some of the storylines that we’ll be covering.
A couple other notes, we’re really excited to have Michelle Beadle as part of our announce team this year. She is a part of Access Hollywood as well as the host of NBC Sports Networks the Crossover.
Michelle will be handling celebrity interviews as Adam talked about earlier and will also be doing some fun features.
In fact she and Larry Collmus are spending the afternoon together learning how to call a race. Larry’s going to give her some pointers on how to call a horse race and that should be a lot of fun.
So really excited about that, really excited as Tom talked about about the storylines related to the jockeys of course Gary being one of them.
Kevin Krigger is another story we’re going to tell. We’ll be interview Rosie Napravnik too — a very, very rich number of storylines associated with jockey’s of this year’s Kentucky Derby and I can’t wait for Saturday.
Adam Freifeld: Great. Thanks everybody. Let’s open it up for questions. And just one note for we have a lot of speakers on the call, just identify who are you as you’re speaking. Thanks.
Operator: Thank you very much. If you would like to ask a question please signal by pressing Star 1 on your telephone keypad.
If you are using a speakerphone please make sure your mute function is turned off to allow your signal to reach our equipment.
Once again Star 1 to ask your question. We’ll take our first question from Jim Williams with the Washington Examiner.
Jim Williams: Thanks very much. Actually this out to the entire group.
You touched on the fact that the Kentucky Derby is as much actually as an event as it is a race. It draws so many first-time, you know, horse race watchers.
What do you think is so compelling that brings people back about the Derby?
Tom Hammond: Well I’ll say it’s a little something for everybody. It is the fun, the food the fashion. And a horse race only takes up two minutes. But if you think of all that goes into it, one of my favorite moments is the walkover when there’s such anticipation and as the horses come out on the track and they play My Old Kentucky Home.
And Gary Stevens has told me even grizzled veterans get a little lump in their throat.
It’s such a special moment. It’s a slice of Americana. It’s a rite of spring. It’s all those things. And so there’s something for everyone to be interested in.
And we understand that there are a lot of first-time viewers, non-horseracing fans that watch. And so we try to make it so that they can understand it and appreciate it and sort of enjoy it as we do.
Jim Williams: You’re doing a good job (Tommy).
Tom Hammond: Thank you Jim.
Operator: We’ll take our next question from Tom Hoffarth with Los Angeles Daily News.
Tom Hoffarth: Hi. This is to anybody also. I wanted to talk about the storyline related to Goldencents either with Doug O’Neill or the jockey or even with Rick Patino being drawn into this storyline.
How do you guys look at that and how do you approach that as a package deal?
Male: All the above for sure.
Rob Hyland: Yes, you know, there are so many different chapters within that one horse that the connections are all great stories themselves.
You know, we’ll do a videotape feature on Kevin Krigger. We’ll do a live or taped interview with Rick Patino.
We will interview Doug O’Neill live. So, you know, we are covering sort of all the angles associated with this horse and connections.
Adam Freifeld: Thanks Rob. Hey again just please identify yourselves when you’re speaking. That was Rob Hyland.
Okay and next question?
Operator: We’ll go next to Steve Jones from Louisville Courier Junior – Journal.
Steve Jones: Yes I had a question for Rob the producer or maybe for Gary. Just want do you guys anticipate sort of being how kind of Gary’s role will play out during the day and I mean how much will he be on the air and how much, you know, will he have a camera mounted on him or I mean how will it work with Gary?
Rob Hyland: This is Rob Hyland answering. You know, Gary is still on our announce team but he is a jockey trying to win the Kentucky Derby and we respect that.
He will be wearing a microphone on Friday during the Kentucky Oaks as well as his races on Saturday. So if there’s compelling audio associated with his various rides we can listen in on that in tape delay.
He’s agreed to do anything and everything we’ve asked during Derby week which is a hectic week for him as a jockey.
And he will be doing an interview with us on Saturday. But, you know, he’s given us everything we’ve asked. But we are fully respecting the fact that he is trying to win the race. So he’s not going to do anything that would affect that goal.
Steve Jones: Thanks Rob. Will we hear from Gary on this?
Gary Stevens: Just to add on to that a little bit, this is I think my 19th Kentucky Derby that I’ve ridden in and so it’s not new to me.
And I’m very appreciative. I’m looking at things a whole lot differently now than when I was active before. I’ve got a new appreciation for what I have and what I have now and the opportunities that I’ve received.
And I don’t feel a lot of pressure going into this derby. And I’m very at ease with it. And as Rob said I am still part of this team. And that’s why I’ve offered to do anything to make this show better, contribute.
And I’ve felt like over the years as being on the announcing team coming to the job (soon maybe) after and a couple of favors from some guys hey can you wear a microphone during the race well how can I ask that question then not volunteer to do it?
So I’m very happy to accommodate to do anything I can to make this telecast any better.
Adam Freifeld: Great. Thanks Gary. Again reminder it’s Star 1 to ask a question. And let’s go to the next one.
Operator: We’ll take our next question from Ed Sherman with Shermanreport.com.
Ed Sherman: Yes hi. This is for Gary. Gary just following-up a little bit about what you said from going from being a jockey then going up and watching it as an analyst now going back down.
I mean what have – what did you learn and see from being up there and how’s that going to maybe help you become a – how has that helped you become a better jockey now that you’re back in it?
Gary Stevens: I don’t know if it’s helped to become a better jockey or not but actually you pick a race apart a lot more when you’re sitting up there in the booth and comparing for a show you pick apart a lot more.
Sometimes as a jockey you may tend to want to forget a few things and quickly think that in your mind more positive it will accomplish a certain goal.
I’ve got a lot more control on a horse’s back than I did sitting in the office booth. And it’s a positive feeling knowing that I can have an impact on the shape of the race.
And I feel that I will have an impact on the shape of the race because of my post position where I drew with Oxbow and where the way I wrote him last time in the Arkansas Derby.
So I’ll just say it here now I’m sending this horse away from the gate and if anybody wants any part of me early on then they’re probably going to pay the price for it. So I’ll let that be known right now.
And so (Jerry) can play off of that what he feels ((inaudible)). That’s the biggest difference there, I’ve got an impact on the race.
Ed Sherman: Great, thanks.
Operator: We’ll take our next question from Jason Dachman from Sports Video Group.
Jason Dachman: Yes. Hey guys. Rob just a couple quick production questions for you.
Can you touch on one or two of the production elements you guys are going to have out there that your especially excited about this year be it, you know, a new camera position in ultra-mo or maybe some of the graphic stuff that you guys have focused on the last few years?
Rob Hyland: Yes Jason a couple of things. You know, I’m always trying to push the envelope in terms of graphic presentation and presenting the odds and the way we present the odds and the stories associated with the horses for the common viewer.
I always tell our announcers remember my mom Ann Hyland who watches, you know, a few worse races the year the Triple Crown she’s your audience on Derby Saturday.
And, you know, Tom and I have been talking throughout the spring and we’re going to present the current odds a few different ways including regrouping them by favors to longshots so the viewer at home will know where to look so you don’t have to go by post position.
We’ve incorporated a new graphic that kind of gives a tour of Churchill Downs for the viewer to kind of understand how the whole day works.
You know, you see all of our reporters just pop up in various places like the barn, the paddock, the jockey room, but where are all these places in relation to the finish line and the Twin Spires?
So we think we can give our viewers this year a better sense of place throughout the day of how the whole day works.
And then finally I really with the support of a lot of associate producers on the show tried to push the envelope of some of the “on board” material, go pro material that’s shot where we get to exercise riders or jocks during their morning workouts.
And as we go to break Tom will get us to break and say hey let’s go on board with Goldencents or It’s My Lucky Day. And it’ll give the viewers a chance to see what it looks like being on the back of a Kentucky Derby race horse. So those are some of the things I really look forward to in this years’ telecast.
Jason Dachman: Very cool. And just a quick follow-up, the live extra streaming has become a pretty huge part of NBC’s coverage overall regardless of what the property is.
But how does that factor into your guy’s production the streaming in the secondary platform overall, you know, aside from the linear telecast?
Male: I think for the first time this year we begin streaming starting at 4 o’clock. In the past it started later within our telecast. And we’re going to be aggressively giving viewers the content that we may not be showing live on screen, a shot of the grandstand showing the beautiful people looking at there over the rail at the track.
So we’ll give it a shot of the paddock. We’ll show the celebrities arriving on the red carpet.
You know, it’s not just going to be the five horse race iso’s during the race this year. There’s going to be a lot more content provided throughout the telecast.
Jason Dachman: Cool. Thanks for doing this guys. Appreciate it.
Operator: And we’ll take our next question from Debbie Arrington with the Sacramento Bee.
Debbie Arrington: Hi. Thank you very much for coming on this morning. This question is for Gary.
Gary what are some of the things that are different this time around coming back to the Derby from your past memories of the Derby?
And why did you decide to come back and do this? What was the big driving factor?
Gary Stevens: I’ll answer the last part first.
Debbie Arrington: Okay.
Gary Stevens: It was just something that started to grow within me over the past year and a half. And I started getting fit. I didn’t know whether I would be able to come back. I wanted to take it slowly. I did take it slowly.
And talking with a number of folks, friends, family members got a lot of encouragement. And I thought, you know, if I can do this why not and if I can do it at a high level and continue to do it at a high level.
And to be back after four months of racing and riding in the Kentucky Derby I can just say that it’s pretty gratifying.
It would be super gratifying if I could wind up with the garland of roses my lap in the winner’s circle. But I know just how hard it is to win the Kentucky Derby as (Jerry) said how much luck is involved in not only to get here but to win it and have everything go your way.
When I say I’m more appreciative of it what I mean is to look back and no pun intended, but I got to stop and smell the roses over the last seven years and look at the things that I’ve accomplished over my career and see just how fortunate I was.
And I not only was fortunate but I was lucky too. And I want to see if I can rekindle and relight that luck candle.
Debbie Arrington: Very good. Best of luck.
Gary Stevens: Thank you.
Operator: And at this time I like to turn the conference back to Adam Freifeld for any additional or closing remarks.
Adam Freifeld: And thank you. I apologize if we didn’t get to your questions. We have a tight schedule today and the guys have a bunch of work to do.
As I mentioned earlier there will be a transcript available at nbcsportsgrouppressbox.com later today.
And in about two hours a replay is available at 719-457-0820 and the passcode again is 6386181. Again thanks everyone for joining us and have a great day.
Operator: This does conclude today’s conference. We thank you for your participation.