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HORSE RACING : STEVE SPRINGER / ON THE MEDIA

ESPN takes another shot at Breeders' Cup

October 24, 2008|STEVE SPRINGER | Springer is a Times staff writer

Seabiscuit, the movie, couldn't do it.

NBC couldn't do it.

Now ESPN, the worldwide leader in hype, will take another shot at restoring the glamour and popularity once enjoyed by horse racing.

ESPN will air 14 races of this year's Breeders' Cup from Santa Anita over two days, a total of nine hours spread across three of its outlets, ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC. It's the third year ESPN has had the rights to the event, but the first time the races have been on both network and cable stations. ESPN2 will air five filly races from 12:30 to 3:30 this afternoon, culminating with the Ladies' Classic. ABC will go from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday with ESPN handling the stretch run from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

ESPN will empty its bag of broadcast tricks, everything from high-definition broadcasts to a rail-view, truck-mounted camera to wireless mikes on the jockeys to cameras roaming from the paddock to the stands to a virtual display of the finish line.

Everything but a method for the viewer to place a bet. Now that would bring blockbuster ratings.

Tough sell

Fox Sports had a 9.2 rating and 14.6 million viewers for the opening game of the World Series on Wednesday night between the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays, according to Nielsen Media Research. That's a 12% drop from Game 1 a year ago, the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies getting a 10.5 rating and 16.9 million viewers. Still, it's the best prime-time rating Fox has enjoyed since its telecast of the major league All-Star game in July.

Fox President Ed Goren admits it's going to take a few games for America to get interested in the young, talented Rays, who are largely unknown to the general public outside the ugly confines of Tropicana Field. Write about Evan Longoria and many people still think you were guilty of a typo while referring to Mrs. Tony Parker, better known as Eva.

Imagine how much more appealing it would have been Wednesday night to have Manny Ramirez coming to bat in Fenway Park. Talk about monster ratings. That would have produced Green Monster ratings.

A shift in the polls

With only a week left until the polls close, the old guy with decades of experience has surged well past his younger competitors, despite their more celebrated circumstances.

McCain-Obama?

No, we're talking about our L.A. Times sportscaster poll, which runs for another week. The leader in the voting for favorite play-by-play announcer is Vin Scully with 46% of the vote.

Hardly a surprise.

What is surprising is the runner-up, Ralph Lawler, the enduring voice of the long-suffering Clippers. Starting his 30th season with the club, Lawler has earned 17% of the vote, nearly six times the total of Lakers voices Joel Meyers (2%) and Spero Dedes (1%) combined.

In third place with 13% of the vote is Bob Miller, now in his 36th season with the Kings.

The leader in the least favorite category is national college football announcer Brent Musburger with 21% of the vote, followed closely by Fox's national baseball/football broadcaster Joe Buck with 17%.

Buck's vote total is probably affected by his perceived bias against the Dodgers in the NLCS. It's undeserved, but predictable.

From Chip Carey and Tony Gwynn at TBS to Buck and his broadcast partner, Tim McCarver, every national announcer is lambasted by fans for being against their hometown, whether it's L.A., Chicago or Boston. If you're not with them, you must be against them.

To vote in the poll, go to latimes.com, click on The Fabulous Forum and then click on sportscaster poll.

Back already?

Didn't the Olympics just end? NBC is already previewing the next Games, the 2010 Winter Olympics, with live coverage of figure skating's Skate America. NBC will air two hours of competition from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. Just as the network had specialty channels for basketball and soccer from Beijing, it will present 12 additional hours of skating starting today on Universal Sports, available through cable on Charter (channel 305), Cox (805) and Time Warner (226).

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steve.springer@latimes.com

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