A family barbecue kept me away from Belmont to see Rachel Alexandra live in The Mother Goose Stakes, so I programmed the trusty DVR to tape MSG Plus cable network's coverage of the Race.
Upon watching the watching the 1/2 hour coverage on my DVR I was overall pleased with the coverage provided by MSG Plus.
This is good news to racing fans as MSG Plus, in partnership with NYRA will telecast five "Saturdays at Saratoga," specials live from the Saratoga Race Course this summer including coverage of eight stakes races over the 5 shows. ESPN/ABC will only be on hand for Travers Day on August 29th. Jason Blewitt, Andy Serling & Eric Donovan provided commentary for The Mother Goose telecast and will also be the same TV crew for the Saratoga specials.
The 1/2 coverage was low on production values but high on quality information. The broadcast was loaded with a ton of racing history provided by the 3 man crew. Jason Blewitt and Andy Serling noted how many top fillies have won this race in the last 50 years. Eric Donovan also noted that prior to yesterday only 6 horses have won both the Kentucky Oaks and The Mother Goose Stakes with the last to do it in 2000 (Secret Status). Blewitt and Serling talked about the stretch duel in 1991 between Meadow Star and Lite Lite (owned by rapper MC Hammer) and than showed a replay of the neck and neck stretch drive won by Meadow Star.
Andy Serling, who seems to remember every race ran on a NYRA racetrack in the last 30 years (and apparently was also present for all of them too) talked about other 3 horse fields in major stakes races including the filly Personal Ensign winning the Whitney Handicap in a 3 horse field at Saratoga and Go For Wand winning the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in a 3 horse field. Serling has an incredible memory for past racing performances and I always seem to pick up information when I listen to him.
On the handicapping angle, all 3 noted beforehand that the track was playing fast. Donovan explained that the last 3 races on Friday were turf races so the track was sealed after the 6th race, helping to create the fast surface on Saturday. Serling predicted that Malibu Prayer & Flashing "would be running early in this race".
The telecast including a long view of the horses in the Paddock and the Post Parade leading to the race call of Tom Durkin. Tom Durkin was on his game, immediately calling the length of victory by Rachel Alexandra at "almost 20 lengths" (it was 19 1/4 lengths) and also stating right after the finish that the time of 1:46.33 was a Stakes record. (By the way, the track record of 1:45.40 is by Secretariat in 1973.)
After the race, Donovan interviewed Trainer Steve Asmussen in the Winners Circle. I know Asmussen would have answered with a "we will see" but Donovan did not ask Asmussen where we will see Rachel next run. Even if you know Asmussen is gonna duck the question, you still gotta ask it. Another minor criticism is the camera angles of the cable network. The network crew a few times mentioned the "nice crowd turnout" in both the Paddock area and in the stands but we never got a good pan shot of either the Paddock or Stands area. Until I read the official attendance in the paper this morning (13,352), I could not tell how many people were actually at the track by watching the TV coverage.
All in all it was a very good cablecast and with ESPN/ABC dropping down to only one race day coverage this summer from Saratoga, it looks like we will be in good hands with the MSG Plus/NYRA co produced specials from Saratoga.