Last year’s Travers Stakes produced just the second dead heat in history. So, what does the Travers do for an exciting encore?
Just have the top three horses battle for the “Mid-Summer Derby” title.
Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Belmont Stakes champion Palace Malice and Haskell Invitational winner Verrazano head the nine-horse field for today’s 144th running of the Travers, which will be televised by NBC Sports and seen on NBC13 (WNYT) and NBC13 HD. Coverage of the race, along with the King’s Bishop, starts at 4:30 p.m.
Kenny Rice, who will server as a reporter on today’s broadcast, can’t wait for the race to begin.
“I can’t remember a Travers that had more star power,” Rice said in an interview this week. “When you get the Derby winner for the first time in three years, and you get the Belmont winner and you get Verrazano, who may have had the best performance of the year, you bring all those [horses] together, everybody looks like they’re coming into this at their best now, and [you have] a rested Orb.
“I think it’s a perfect scenario.”
It will be tough to pick a winner. Verrazano was established as the favorite at 2-1 at Wednesday’s post-position draw. Orb was listed at 4-1, and Palace Malice was listed at 5-2.
“Honestly, you can say if all three of these horses run their race, then all three would not have any excuses and have a legitimate shot [of winning], especially when you saw Verrazano blow everybody away [at the Haskell],” Rice said. “But Palace Malice and Orb had their two best races in the Triple Crown, and have the ability to come off the pace and win. I think all three have a certain style, and if they live up to what they are capable to do with that style, it makes for a great race. I don’t know if anyone is going to need any help because all three are that good, I believe.”
One outstanding horse missing is Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow. He was injured in the Haskell.
“If Oxbow were in the race, and I wish he were, it would have been the perfect storm,” Rice said.
Before we crown one of the three favorites as the champion, there are six other horses in this race who are looking to pull off an upset. Rice believes that one of the horses who could do that is Will Take Charge. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained horse was second in the Jim Dandy.
“I thought he had a pretty good race,” Rice said. “A Lukas win on a big day of racing, the big showcase of racing and on national TV, that would almost seem fitting if somebody is to pull off the upset.”
Tom Hammond will host the coverage. He will be joined in the booth by two-time Belmont Stakes-winning jockey Jerry Bailey and analyst Randy Moss. Reporter/handicapper Bob Neumeier and reporter Donna Brothers are also on the broadcast.
Last Saturday marked the debut of FOX Sports 1 and NBC Sports Group’s Premier League Soccer coverage. Both entities got off to good starts.
Thanks to the Ultimate Fighting Championship card (8-11 p.m.), which featured a heavyweight bout between Shogun Rua and Chael Sonnen, FS1 posted an average audience of 1.71 million viewers in prime time and got a 1.33 rating.
The debut of “FOX Sports Live” averaged 476,000 viewers. FOX said it’s an improvement of 137 percent over what Speed, the channel FS1 replaced, was showing a year ago. Also, Fox said it was a whopping 1,384 percent increase over Speed in the men’s 18-34 time-period performance (163,000 vs. 11,000).
Meanwhile, more than 3.4 million people tuned in to NBC Sports Group’s television coverage last weekend. It’s the most ever for an opening Premier League weekend in the U.S. There were seven telecasts on three networks (one on NBC, four on NBC Sports Network, and two on mun2).
According to Nielsen, the five English-language games on NBC and NBCSN drew a total of 3.2 million viewers. That is a 52 percent increase from the 2.1 million total for the five games on ESPN and FOX Soccer last year.
Yankees-Red Sox rate
Last Sunday’s coverage of the New York Yankees’ 9-6 win over the Boston Red Sox earned ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” a 2.5 overnight rating, according to Nielsen.
It is the highest-rated “SNB” game of the season for ESPN. The four-hour, 12-minute game featured Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster drilling Yankees batter Alex Rodriguez in the second inning. Rodriguez, who is appealing his 211-game suspension for his alleged connection to the Biogenesis scandal, then drilled a solo homer to center field that ignited a four-run sixth inning for the Yankees.
ESPN said the 2.5 rating is up 25 percent from a 2.0 for last year’s comparable “SNB” telecast, which was also a Yankees-Red Sox game on Aug. 19.
College football schedule
Probably the most popular part of this column is when I list all the NFL and college football games that will be televised in the Capital Region during the week.
Well, with the college football season kicking off Thursday, it’s once again time to debut the list of games. Announcers (where available), in order of play-by-play, analyst and sideline reporter, are in parentheses:
ESPN and ESPN HD — North Carolina at South Carolina, 6 p.m. (Rece Davis/Jesse Palmer and David Pollack/Samantha Ponder); Mississippi at Vanderbilt, 9:15 p.m. (Joe Tessitore/Matt Millen/Maria Taylor).
ESPN3 — Liberty at Kent State, 6 p.m. (Michael Reghi/John Gregory); Presbyterian at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m. (Roy Philpott/Brian Kinchen/Angela Mallen); Illinois State at Ball State, 7 p.m. (Jim Barbar/Rocky Boiman); Akron at UCF, 7 p.m. (Drew Fellios/Al Groh/Tiffany Greene); Towson at Connecticut, 7:30 p.m. (Bob Picozzi/KC Keeler/John Brickley); Southern Utah at South Alabama, 7:30 p.m. (Mike Gleason/Cole Cubelic).
ESPNU and ESPNU HD — Tulsa at Bowling Green, 7 p.m. (Joe Davis/David Diaz-Infante); Rutgers at Fresno State, 10:30 p.m. (Dave Flemming/Mike Bellotti/Lewis Johnson).
FS1 and FS1 HD — Utah State at Utah, 8 p.m. (Justin Kutcher/Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis/Kristina Pink).
CBSSN and CBSSN HD — USC at Hawaii, 11 p.m. (Andrew Catalon/Aaron Taylor/Lauren Gardner).
BTN and BTN HD — UNLV at Minnesota, 7 p.m. (Matt Devlin/Glen Mason).
Pac-12 and Pac-12 HD — Northern Arizona at Arizona, 10 p.m. (Ted Robinson/Glenn Parker).
Pac-12 and Pac-12 HD — Eastern Washington at Oregon State, 6 p.m. (Roxy Bernstein/Anthony Herron); Nevada at UCLA, 10 p.m. (Kevin Calabro/Yogi Roth).
CBSSN and CBSSN HD — Morgan State at Army, 7 p.m. (Ben Holden/Tom Bradley/Kristine Leahy).
ESPN3 — Samford at Georgia State, 7 p.m. (Ryan Rose/Cory Chavous); Southern at Houston, 8:30 p.m. (Brett Dolan/Kevin O’Connell/Sean Adams).
ESPN and ESPN HD — Texas Tech at SMU, 8 p.m. (Carter Blackburn/Danny Kanell/Allison Williams).
ESPNU and ESPNU HD — Florida Atlantic at Miami, 8 p.m. (Tom Hart/John Congemi/Brooke Weisbrod).
BTN and BTN HD — Western Michigan at Michigan State, 8 p.m. (Wayne Larrivee/Jon Jansen).
FS1 and FS1 HD — North Dakota State at Kansas State, 8:30 p.m.