How the horse racing show at Belmont Park overcame the challenges of the coronavirus

How the horse racing show at Belmont Park overcame the challenges of the coronavirus

At a time when the number of horse races in the country was shrinking due to the coronavirus pandemic, the television show focusing on those breeds expanded.

And starting Wednesday, “America’s Day at the Races” will finally be able to show off their own backyard again. The broadcast produced by the New York Racing Association (NYRA) in association with Fox Sports, broadcast by Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 and locally on MSG Plus, will be the only way to see the return of racing in a Belmont without Park fans.

“I take my hat off to the NYRA production team,” NYRA Bets chief revenue officer and president Tony Allevato said in a telephone interview. “It is difficult for us to produce the programs as they are, and then to be able to do it during a pandemic with a fraction of the staff that we would normally have due to the existing social distancing protocols, is really something amazing. that the team was able to achieve. I am really proud of them. It was very difficult, we were doing five to six hours of programming per day with a quarter of the staff we would have for a normal two hour show. But everyone really recovered. “

Since New York’s last race at the Aqueduct on March 15, “American Racing Day” has continued to air. It has filled the hours by showing track races that remained open during the pandemic, such as Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, before adding Churchill Downs when it reopened in May.

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According to Allevato, there were between 10 and 15 people working in the production of the shows, with talent working from home and remotely elsewhere.

Last week, analysts Andy Serling and Maggie Wolfendale and former jockey Richard Migliore were able to return to the set at Belmont Park, sitting separately, for shows. The broadcast team includes host Greg Wolf, Serling, Wolfendale, Migliore, and Acacia Courtney, among others, with coverage set for Wednesday from 1-6 p.m. at MSG Plus.

“Even now at Belmont, we are going to abide by very strict rules,” Allevato said. “Our talent will not be allowed in the paddock. When people are not in front of the camera, they will wear a mask. Any interview that takes place will be done with a boom microphone so they can keep that 6 foot distance from the person we are interviewing. “

Although Wolfendale, a paddock analyst, will not be in the paddock, he hopes his analysis will remain the same.

“I think we will expose people to some rivalries they never knew existed in sports racing for a casual fan,” said Wolfendale, referring to a showdown as “blue collar” Mind Control against the “royalty-bred” Performer. of Saturday. Runhappy Carter Handicap in Belmont Park. “That has been lost over the years because horse racing has been left behind.”

Allevato said that being at FS1, especially when most other sports are still closed, has given the program the opportunity to reach a broader audience. Because of that, he has adapted his coverage to keep in mind that not all viewers are avid horse racing fans.

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That has also included putting an extra emphasis on NYRA betting, as the online betting platform has run promotions to encourage viewers to sign up for accounts. Generally, his most important day for account registration is the Kentucky Derby day, which was maintained this year, even without the first stage of the Triple Crown.

“On that day, we had triple the number of people who opened an account than the year before on the day of the Kentucky Derby, which is a remarkable number,” Allevato said. “So the audience has been very, very engaged. I think people will go back to horse racing. “

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