Update: Deal Reached Allowing TVG To Televise Breeders’ Cup Undercard

by | 11.01.2016 | 8:59am

Since publication of this article on Tuesday, officials have reached an agreement permitting TVG to televise Breeders' Cup undercard races from Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday. TVG will not televise the 13 Breeders' Cup world championship races. Click here to read the update.

Unless an 11th-hour agreement is reached, there will be no television coverage on six of the 10 races on Breeders' Cup Friday and three of the 12 races on Saturday's world championships from Santa Anita Park.

NBC Sports Network and NBC are covering all 13 Breeders' Cup races with a three-hour telecast on Friday and 6 ½ hours on Saturday (including a prime-time Breeders' Cup Classic from 8-9 p.m. EDT on NBC.

But an agreement between the Breeders' Cup and the advance deposit wagering company TwinSpires, making it the official wagering partner of the Breeders' Cup, is preventing TVG from broadcasting any races from Santa Anita Park on Friday and Saturday – including non-Breeders' Cup races –  into approximately 40 million homes.

That means fans who are used to watching Santa Anita on TVG will not be able to see the first five and the last of 10 races on Friday or the first three races on Saturday. That includes a pair of Grade 2 stakes on Friday – the Marathon and Twilight Derby – and three stakes on Saturday, including the G3 Sen. Ken Maddy.

In 2015, when the Breeders' Cup was held at Keeneland, TVG not only showed the undercard but the championship races as well (with the exception of the Classic, which NBC protected with its exclusive rights agreement.

ADW companies will be able to stream the races live online.

TwinSpires, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., is also title sponsor of the Breeders' Cup Sprint and the Sprint Division. Xpressbet, an advance deposit wagering company owned by The Stronach Group (which also owns Santa Anita), previously sponsored the Sprint. TVG, owned by Betfair, sponsored Breeders' Cup races in past years.

Churchill Downs Inc. and The Stronach Group formerly were partners in HRTV, a one-time rival to TVG. In 2014, CDI sold its interest to The Stronach Group and a year later the network was sold to TVG, which rebranded it as TVG2. As part of that deal, Stronach Group tracks – including Santa Anita – receive priority on TVG.

TVG personnel have been at Santa Anita providing in-depth coverage from the Arcadia, Calif., track since the TVG/HRTV deal went through. They will not be allowed to broadcast from on-site this Friday and Saturday.

While this may be good business for TwinSpires and CDI and gives the Breeders' Cup a few hundred thousand dollars, it's a rotten deal for horseracing fans and the sport itself. Taking these races off television is not going to help pari-mutuel handle.

In other sports, deals are negotiated all the time granting exclusive rights to broadcasts. CBS Sports, for example, is a long-time host of the Masters golf tournament. But tournament organizers don't prevent the Golf Channel or ESPN from having their talent and production crews broadcasting from Augusta National prior to the exclusive air time granted to CBS. The more publicity the better, right?

Apparently, that's not the way TwinSpires thinks, and the Breeders' Cup capitulated to a deal that is contrary to conventional wisdom.

By not allowing 40 percent of the races to be televised from Santa Anita on Breeders' Cup Friday and Saturday, TwinSpires is sending a message to horse racing fans. I'll let you guess what it is.

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