HYPERBOLIC COMMENTARY BY NBC RACE ANNOUNCERS

The NBC telecast of Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup was reminiscent of some of the Super Bowls that have been billed to be potential nail biters only to turn out to be duds with one team dominating the other.  The ones where the advertisements were far more interesting than the game.

The entire sports world is full of exaggerated nomenclature—great or greatest this or that—and horse racing is no exception. Consider, for example, the NBC telecast of Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup.

In the lead up to the race, on-air personality and former jockey Jerry Bailey said that he could not remember a better matchup of two horses than between Knicks Go and Life is Good.  He is old enough to recall epic showdowns between Alydar and Affirm, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, and don’t overlook several contemporary examples like Beholder and Songbird. Another NBC announcer added to the hype by telling viewers that the Knicks Go vs. Life is Good clash was a battle for the “ages.”  

The putative race for the ages was quickly decided when Life is Good took a commanding lead by the first turn and never looked in jeopardy of losing.  I have seen more thrilling races from $5,000 claimers. After the race, Bailey said “we expected a duel and got a blowout.”  Even this description is superfluous because a 3-length win is an easy victory but no blowout.  Secretariat’s win in the Belmont and Funny Cide’s performance in the Preakness were blowouts.

Certainly, announcers want to keep a sports event as interesting and exciting as possible, but the Pegasus World Cup TV crew went to extremes with their verbiage.  (Also, an awkward moment in the telecast came when a young women in the paddock gave the official order “riders up” and the jockeys did not mount when directed to do so.)

The payouts for the race reflect how uncompetitive it was.  The $2 exacta paid $4.80, the $2 trifecta was $15.60, and the $1 superfecta was $37.60.

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On an unrelated racing note, the Southwest Stakes was held at Oaklawn Park Saturday and was won by the Bob Baffert-trained and undefeated in three starts Newgrange.  As with the colt’s win in the Swaps Stakes on New Year’s Day, he did not accumulate any Kentucky Derby qualifying points owing to Baffert’s ban through 2023 by Churchill Downs, Inc.  Newgrange has five ownership interests and they apparently are not concerned that their colt is most likely going to be on the sidelines for both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes unless Baffert is replaced as his trainer.

A couple of Baffert 3-year-old colts are attracting plenty of money in Kentucky Derby futures betting. This indicates that bettors either believe that his colts will be transferred to other trainers or that Baffert will somehow be successful in overturning his ban, most likely the former.

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