ESPN is off to the races at Churchill Downs

By Ken Kerschbaumer

NBC Sports might have the big story from Churchill Downs but it will be ESPN and its eight hours of racing from Churchill Downs beginning this afternoon that will give the true horse racing fans a proper fix. “We’re here to tell the stories of the five or six races we’ll have on air today plus the Derby story,” says David Miller, ESPN senior coordinating producer. “We’ll be jumping in and out of the Derby story all day long.”

The challenge for ESPN’s announcers is not only keeping on top of the big race tomorrow but also the horses in the other races.

Game Creek Video’s Southern Cross SD truck will be on hand for coverage. Thirteen Sony cameras will be dedicated to ESPN’s needs along with three SD ENG cameras. The network will also pull in three feeds from NBC cameras. Four EVS servers, eight tape sources, three Avid editing systems and Chyron Duet graphics systems will also be used.

“We also have one Sony HD ENG camera that we’re using in preparation for Belmont,” says Miller of the future race that will be broadcast in HD.

Three to four cameras around the track will shoot standard race coverage of the entire field (unless the field stretches out to 15-20 lengths at which point the laggards will be left behind). Two or three cameras are also isolated on certain aspects of the race. ESPN will take NBC’s main wide cover camera shot plus the feed from the jib camera in the paddock because there isn’t enough room for two jib cameras.

With 225,000 people expected to head out to the track today and tomorrow the ESPN crew is bracing for the occasional traffic jam. “Usually you can move very easily from place to place,” says Miller. “So sometimes it’ll be a little slower getting around.”

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