Technology and TV Stars at the Breeders’ Cup

Louisville got plenty of national spotlight during the weekend, as Mother Nature cooperated for a spectacular Breeders’ Cup event that  surely convinced its execs to bring the event back soon. It’s in Santa Anita next year.

For fans of racing, the Breeders’ Cup far outshines the Kentucky Derby. The two-date race card, and the spectacular prize money, attracts the best in the business from around the world. It’s an international event and with that comes a more sophisticated atmosphere, and not just because the infield is closed. There’s less drinking, unless you count the people at the amazing Grey Goose Party at the Gillespie Thursday night.

There were  a couple of Breeders’ Cup technology advances of note. First, the iPhone app was spectacular. It you wanted to, you could save the $5 on the program and get everything you needed on the app, not that most race fans want to give up the idea of spreading out the form and comparing entries. The app’s features included all the basic info about the races and Horses, plus video, history and more.

In the paddock on Friday, ad exec Larry Bisig handed me one of the radios being sold at the track, telling me that there was still a place for that old-fashioned technology . It was attached  to a lanyard and you could attach it to your ear, so that you could hear what was being said on the big screens around the track. It was especially useful during the race calls, and for hearing about the Horses and their connections between races.

I caught a few minutes of the national broadcast, noting that a full segment was being devoted to Tweets made by connections to the Horses. Some were lame, of course, like Todd Plecher’s one-word excuses for his charges, but the ABC crew did manage to make the Tweets a compelling part of the broadcast. I caught even less of the local broadcast by WHAS, but can tell you there was an odd Ali impersonation provided by Adam Lefkoe during the show. WHAS had Joe Arnold and Gary Roedemeier in the paddock, and Lefkoe and Kent Spencer worked from the infield.

Chantal Sutherland in a Pacific Magazine photo

Around the track, the programming on video screens featured race analysis and surprisingly, very few ads. Angie Fenton’s celebrity interviews were about the only non-racing programming, and she had some great guests. Those included jockey Mike Smith, who prompted her to bet Drosselmayer in the Classic, lucky dog.

The most heavily-promoted item on the broadcast was HBO’s upcoming series “Luck”, which will premier in December and will be reason enough to keep that HBO subscription.

It stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, and looks like it will be worth keeping that HBO subscription. It also stars Chantal Sutherland, who may be the first person in history with a website listing her occupation as: jockey/actress/model.

She was also the first female jockey to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (aboard Game On Dude) and losing to her ex-fiancee (Mike Smith). She was also among the jockeys featured on the 2009 Animal Planet series Jockeys.