Saturday, NBC will broadcast the Belmont Stakes without a Bob Baffert horse in the race. A month ago it looked like the super trainer would have the two favorites in the race. His three-year-olds Nadal and Charlatan won the split divisions of the prestigious Arkansas Derby. Shortly after, Nadal, however, was retired to stud, due to an ankle injury that required two screws to repair.
Now, Charlatan was found to have run that race under the influence of an illegal drug (lidocaine). While Arkansas officials continue to investigate, Baffert has decided to pull Charlatan from the Belmont, because of “a filling in his ankle.” The Charlatan findings come on the heels of The New York Times reporting last September that in 2018 Baffert’s Justify failed a drug test after he won the Santa Anita Derby, less than a month before the Kentucky Derby. According to the Times’ Joe Drape, “the rule on the books at the time required that Justify be disqualified, forfeiting both his prize money and his entry to the Derby.”
California racing officials kept the investigation secret for months allowing Justify to race and win the Triple Crown. They eventually ruled that Justify ingested the illegal substance via “environmental contamination” thus giving Baffert a pass. But for years horse-players and horsemen alike have marveled at how Baffert’s horses always seem to show up for big races with record-breaking performances.
This year Charlatan was rumored to be “the fastest horse in the world” after just one race. Now we find out that he was not only fast but felt no pain while allegedly running with lidocaine. So far, Baffert hasn’t gone on record about Charlatan’s Arkansas victory. The “filling” in Charlatan’s ankle could be a convenient excuse for Baffert to avoid facing the New York media and a ton of questions regarding whether his past successes are legitimate.
The question NBC must face is whether they want to get into all this. The appearance or lack of it by Baffert’s horses in this strange Belmont, completely changes the complexion of the race. Without them it’s just another race. The cloud hanging over Baffert’s head is also the elephant in the room.
Saturday we’ll find out if NBC will address it.
Belmont Stakes Show Features Socially-Distanced Broadcast Team
NBC Sports will present wall-to-wall coverage of the world’s best horse racing this week, with 25+ hours of live racing. The week is highlighted by a broadcast-record 6+ hours of live horse racing on NBC this Saturday, June 20, with the 152nd Belmont Stakes at 2:45 p.m. ET on NBC capping a day which begins at 9 a.m. ET on the network with the Royal Meeting in Ascot, England.
For the first time ever, due to Covid-19, the Belmont Stakes will be the year’s first Triple Crown race contested. This year also marks the first time since 1931 that the Triple Crown races have not been run in the traditional Kentucky Derby-Preakness Stakes-Belmont Stakes sequence.
SOCIALLY-DISTANCED COMMENTATORS: NBC Sports’ coverage of the Belmont Stakes features host Mike Tirico and analyst Randy Moss from NBC Sports Group’s International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. Hall of Fame jockey and two-time Belmont Stakes winner Jerry Bailey joins the broadcast from his home in Florida, and handicapper Eddie Olczyk from his home in Chicago. Reporters Britney Eurton and Kenny Rice, and race caller Larry Collmus will be on-site at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Nick Luck will host NBC’s Saturday Royal Ascot coverage on-location in the U.K.
The coordinating producer of NBC’s horse racing coverage is Rob Hyland, who has been a part of the network’s horse racing coverage since 2001 and serves as the lead producer on his 25th Triple Crown race. The Belmont Stakes is directed by Pierre Moossa. Lindsay Schanzer produces NBC Sports’ Royal Ascot coverage. Hyland, Moossa, and Schanzer will all be handling their roles from NBC Sports Group’s facility in Stamford. Executive producer and president, production, NBC Sports and NBCSN is Sam Flood.
Highlights of Belmont Stakes and Royal Ascot coverage Saturday on NBC include:
- Five live races in the Belmont Stakes show, expected to include the Jaipur Stakes – presented by America’s Best Racing, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
- Five live races in the Royal Ascot show, featuring the Diamond Jubilee, which is also a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race
- A look at this year’s unique Belmont Stakes, taking place over a mile and an eighth, rather than the traditional 1½ miles
- Tim Layden presents an essay on this new Triple Crown race order
- Jimmy Roberts provides commentary on the return of sports in New York City
- Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss remotely go “around the barns” to meet the contenders of the 152nd Belmont Stakes.
- A discussion about Bob Baffert’s spring, which included his two top Triple Crown contenders, Nadal (retired) and Charlatan (injured), being sidelined.
- A feature on the connections of likely Belmont Stakes favorite Tiz the Law, whose New York-based ownership group won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with Funny Cide in 2003.
- Virtual visits with fans across the country watching the Belmont Stakes, presented with the Breeders’ Cup and America’s Best Racing.