Come Rain or Shine, NBC Sports Prepped for Final Jewel of Triple Crown

With Tropical Storm Andrea set to hit New York this weekend, Triple Crown producer Rob Hyland and the NBC Sports team are more than ready for the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes and whatever Mother Nature throws their way.

“I’m actually looking at [the weather] right now on my computer,” says Hyland. “Obviously, with this tropical storm making its way up the East Coast, it will absolutely challenge us technically, as it did with the Kentucky Derby when we had a rainstorm on Derby Day. We are already anticipating pretty foul weather both Friday and Saturday, and that will definitely be part of our production plan.”

NBC Sports plans to present 6½ hours of Belmont Stakes coverage this weekend, beginning today at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network and culminating tomorrow with the Belmont Stakes at 5 p.m. on NBC. And, despite the lack of a Triple Crown contender in this year’s third jewel, the Belmont boasts plenty to talk about.

“To me, this year’s Belmont is one of the best we’ve had in a long time,” says Hyland. “We have the number-one storyline of the Kentucky Derby winner Orb and the Preakness winner Oxbow going head to head for the rubber match at the Belmont. In fact, there are 10 horses that raced in the Kentucky Derby that are racing in the Belmont Stakes, which is pretty unusual.

“Obviously,” he continues, “we’ll focus on Orb and Oxbow, but that will not be our only focus. We will make sure to tell the stories of the other 12 horses in the race, to round out the field of 14. In a lot of ways, I’m really excited about this telecast because it has so many different layers to it.”

A Horse(race) of a Different Color
As horseracing fans — both avid and casual — are no doubt aware, the track at Belmont Park measures a half mile longer than the one-mile tracks at Churchill Downs and Pimlico.

“You can turn the Empire State Building on its side, and it would still fit within the length of the grandstand,” says Hyland. “Everything here at Belmont is just a little bit bigger.”

Beyond the sheer size of the track, the other visual difference that viewers will note is, unlike at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, the lack of spectators in Belmont Park’s infield. “It looks like you could play a round of golf out there,” he quips.

Broadcast Sports Inc. will handle RF duties at the Elmont, NY, racetrack, completing its own Triple Crown after covering the first two jewels.

“They do a phenomenal job for us,” says Hyland. “It is a challenge, but, if we could pull it off at the 150-plus acres at Churchill Downs, we can pull it off here.”

Seasoned Veterans Ready for Stormy Weather
After covering the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, NEP’s ND3 (A, B, C, and D units) — NBC’s Sunday Night Football unit — traveled to Long Island, where it will handle Belmont coverage for NBC and NBC Sports Network.

Joining Hyland in the truck will be NBC Sports’ Triple Crown director Drew Esocoff. The coverage on NBC Sports Network is produced by Billy Matthews and directed by Patrick McManus. The executive producer of NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network is Sam Flood, who has produced 11 Triple Crown races for the network.

NBC will deploy 25 cameras to cover the Belmont, including two super-slo-mos, an ultra-slow-motion, and a complement of RF cameras. Weather permitting, NBC’s coverage will also include a blimp.

“We won’t know until it gets here,” says Hyland of Tropical Storm Andrea. “Obviously, with the blimp, it’s a really nice camera angle for race replay — the overhead shot of the race, especially with a field of 14 — [but] we’ll lose it [if the weather is bad].”

The Belmont Stakes will be co-hosted by Bob Costas and veteran horseracing commentator Tom Hammond; the two will be joined by two-time Belmont Stakes-winning jockey Jerry Bailey; analyst Randy Moss; contributing analysts Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier; host Laffit Pincay III; reporters Kenny Rice, Donna Brothers, and Jay Privman; race caller Larry Collmus; and Michelle Beadle, who will contribute features.

How, and where, NBC’s on-air talent will be deployed depends largely on Andrea.

“Drew Esocoff and I will have to sit down and make sure that we’ve put our announcers and our roving reporters in places that they should be, [but] I’m not going to leave them out in the pouring rain,” says Hyland. “We’ll have to adjust our production plan if it is a complete deluge.”

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