Behind the Broadcast: NBC analysts like Monba

NBC handicapper/analyst Mike Battaglia and analyst Bob Neumeier both like Monba’s chances in today's

Big Brown is the favorite to win today’s Kentucky Derby. But by no means is he a shoo-in.

Nineteen other horses will have a say in who wins the 134th running of the Derby today from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on NBC. The race will be carried by WNYT (Ch. 13) and in high definition on WNYT HD.

One of those horses who will challenge Big Brown is Monba, who is co-owned by Schenectady native Don Lucarelli. He will come out of post 14.

NBC handicapper/analyst Mike Battaglia and analyst Bob Neumeier both like Monba’s chances.

“Monba ran great in the Blue Grass [Stakes], and Monba’s proven over Churchill Downs’ surface,” Battaglia said during a conference call Thursday. “He won a race here last year. . . . He could jump up and really surprise a lot of people. He did it in the Blue Grass.”

“I put him in the ‘maybe’ class,” Neumeier said. “Mike put a good line on him, about 15-1. He’s one of about 10 or 12 that, if Big Brown collapses and Colonel John doesn’t like the dirt, then it’s wide, wide open after that.”

Monba’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, has yet to win a Derby. He has two horses in the race, the other being Cowboy Cal.

“He has come to this race a lot of times with horses that are probably a lot more of a favorite than Monba is,” Battaglia said. “If he were to win it with a horse like Monba, who is going to be a big price, it would be a heck of a story.”


NBC caught a break late Thursday night, when the Detroit Red Wings eliminated the Colorado Avalanche from the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs in four games.

NBC was scheduled to televise Game 5 of that Western Conference semifinal series today at 1 p.m. Had the game gone into overtime, it would have led to a conflict with the start of the network’s Derby coverage.

A conflict occurred during last year’s Eastern Conference final between the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres. Game 5 of that series went to overtime, and NBC shifted coverage to Versus so it wouldn’t miss the start of its Preakness Stakes broadcast.

There will be another potential conflict in two weeks again with the Preakness.


NBC added an extra 30 minutes to the telecast with “Access at the Kentucky Derby.” The show will feature celebrities walking on the red carpet into Churchill Downs. Billy Bush, host of the NBC-produced “Access Hollywood,” will host the show that starts at 4 p.m.

“The ‘Access at the Kentucky Derby’ show is a great opportunity to take people to the event, and take them places that they haven’t been before,” NBC Sports producer Sam Flood. The added half-hour increase from last year gives us even more room to show off why this is horse racing’s greatest day and the celebration of the start of spring for everyone because the first Saturday in May, the place to be is right here at Churchill Downs.”

To me, this is a waste of time. Red-carpet shows may be good for celebrity award shows, but sports fans care more about the event than what A-, B- or C-list celebrities are at the Derby.

“The Derby is a legendary event,” said Bush in a statement. “My goal will be to add fun, and help build excitement for the race without distracting from the tradition of Derby day and people’s passion for it. That said, there should be some moments.”

And that’s what I fear. Heaven forbid if no-talents like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears show up.


ESPN2 and ESPN will have pre-Derby coverage today, starting with “Today at the Kentucky Derby” at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.

At noon, ESPN will show several races — the La Troienne Stakes, the Churchill Distaff Mile Turf, the Humana Distaff Handicap and the Churchill Downs Handicap.


If you aren’t able to watch Saturday’s Kentucky Derby on WNYT, you can catch it on the radio.

WTMM-FM (104.5) will have coverage from ESPN Radio starting at 5 p.m.


College of Saint Rose senior All-America diver Brandon Birchak will be featured by CBS during the network’s NCAA Winter Championship show at 1 p.m. today. It can be seen on WRGB (Ch. 6).

The piece was done during the NCAA championship meet at the University of Missouri in March.


The U.S. Open in June is going prime time.

Thanks to the U.S. Open being played at Torrey Pines in San

Diego, NBC will show the final two rounds of the U.S. will be on at night. The third round on Saturday, June 14, will be on from 4 to 10 p.m. The final round the next day will be on from 3 to 9 p.m.

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