Canada might not have a dog in the fight for the Stanley Cup, but it has a horse in the race for the U.S. Triple Crown.
I’ll Have Another might succeed where the great Northern Dancer did not – winning the Belmont Stakes and so the greatest triumph in thoroughbred racing.
There is some question whether I’ll Have Another is as truly Canadian as Northern Dancer, who was bred and owned in the country.
E.P. Taylor raced Northern Dancer in Canada prior to his Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes victories in 1964. (Northern Dancer finished third in the Belmont that year, but later scored a Queen’s Plate win.)
I’ll Have Another has a Canadian owner (J. Paul Reddam of Windsor, Ont.) and is being ridden by Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez, who made his bones during six seasons in Vancouver. But the horse was bred in the United States and has yet to race in Canada.
None of this will matter to Canadians on Saturday, when the horse tries to defy the odds of the unlucky No. 11 starting position and the fresh legs of challengers who have not ridden in both the Derby and Preakness. The 1 1/2 -mile track is always a daunting challenge for a young horse after the shorter races before.
On Thursday, TSN announced it had secured a three-year deal to air the Belmont Stakes, starting this weekend. What Canadians tuning in won’t get is a broadcast tailored to Canadians.
To the American broadcaster producing the race, NBC, I’ll Have Another is a horse looking to become the first U.S. Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Yes, the Canadian connection will be mentioned, but the import of the broadcast will not be on a nation hoping for glory.
NBC’s focus will be on the American spectacle of the Triple Crown and a successor to Affirmed and Secretariat (who Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte guided to glory in 1973).
It’s too bad no Canadian network does its own broadcasts of the U.S. Triple Crown. Those days are long gone, as horse racing slipped off the public’s windscreen and network schedules. (The CBC and The Score are still invested in original programming for racing, while TSN also simulcasts ESPN coverage of The Breeders’ Cup.)
SPRUCE ON THE LOOSE
It’s a big weekend for horse coverage as CBC begins its coverage of the equestrian season from Spruce Meadows in Calgary. With the 2012 Summer Olympics also on the menu this summer (Canada won two medals in equestrian events at the 2008 Games in Beijing) it’s a great chance to see the riders and some of the horses who may compete in London.
The CBC season starts with The National event in June, and goes until The Masters in September, the culmination of the summer show-jumping season in Canada. While it battles to maintain its other sports properties, CBC is squarely behind the events at Spruce Meadows and, in July, the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede.
“We have stepped up our production to bring the entire Spruce season to viewers in high definition for 2012 and feel it is perfect for HD,” says Chris Irwin, executive producer, sports content at CBC. “Big sky, big stage, large crowd and you are able to put cameras out onto the playing field. It is a great television experience.
“We have extended our relationship with Spruce Meadows with another multiyear deal. We are working closely with them to explore digital extensions, beyond broadcast itself, and look forward to helping horse jumping fans stay in touch with their sport all season long through our website and a social media campaign.”