One of the difficult things with any event with a large field is preparing for any outcome. We’ve seen that on the NFL Draft, where staffers at ESPN and NFL Network have to track down and then crawl through highlights on a huge range of prospects from a wide variety of schools, leading to things like even the #StumpTheTruck challenge. And we saw it at the 148th Kentucky Derby in 2022, where late entrant and 80-to-1 shot Rich Strike wound up coming away with the win (as seen above). Ahead of Saturday’s 149th Kentucky Derby, a variety of NBC’s on-air staffers took part in a media conference call this week, and analyst Randy Moss had some particularly interesting things to say on how Rich Strike’s win has convinced them to go the extra mile on even super improbable late entrants.
This year it’s pretty easy to know what we could do better from what we did last year because, when Rich Strike crossed the finish line — as you guys have pointed out, he didn’t get into the race until Friday. A horse named Ethereal Road scratched, and that enabled Rich Strike to draw in from the also eligibles. I didn’t have trainer Eric Reed’s phone number. Jerry [Bailey] didn’t have his phone number. We never had to talk to him before.
We watched the horse’s races and everything. It was Oaks Day. We were preparing for our telecast. Do we really need to talk to Eric Reed and find his phone number? No. This horse has no chance, he’s 80-to-1, 100-to-1, he’s not going to win. So we’ll cut that corner and won’t have to worry about talking to people about Rich Strike.
So what happens? Now no matter what happens, no matter who draws in, no matter what the price is on every horse, we’re going to make sure we talk to the connections face to face or on the phone. I think we were fine. We had enough about Rich Strike. It was a historic upset. But it would have been nice to have actually talked to the people before the running of the race. From now on, we will.
The honesty there from Moss is appreciated, as is the explanation of why they didn’t talk to Reed before the race last year. And it’s interesting to see that noted as a key thing to focus on ahead of this year’s telecast. As Moss notes, they handled coverage of Rich Strike’s win well enough in 2022 even without a pre-race conversation with Reed, but “there’s really no substitute for talking to them in person and maybe flushing out any little nuggets that they might have that other people don’t really know about.” And it’s notable to see that emphasized going forward, even on the most unlikely of late-entering long shots. (Of course, one of those happens to be partly-owned by some pretty prominent sports media people, so that may make tracking down those associated with it a little easier.)
The other interesting aspect around Rich Strike’s win last year is how it may impact betting this year. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, again working this telecast as part of his deal with NBC Sports, had some notable thoughts on that on the call:
You heard Rich Strike mentioned five or six times already on this call. I think the memory of Rich Strike is going to hover over this race in so many different ways. One that I’ll be focusing on, I know certainly during the telecast, is the big question is whether there’s going to be a Rich Strike effect in the betting, just in terms of the odds.
…You saw the morning line come out yesterday. I think four horses were at 50-to-1. You got a favorite in Forte at 3-to-1. I thought it was really interesting to go back and look at last time I think you had a Rich Strike-like upset in the Kentucky Derby. To me that’s when you go back to 2009 and Mine That Bird coming out of absolutely nowhere and winning the race. If you take a look at 2010, the immediate next year, there was a dramatic Mine That Bird effect in the betting.
…They might be a bit of a higher price this year with so much money going to some of the very long shot horses because a lot of people are going to look at this race, remember Rich Strike, and maybe say why not when they look at one of these impossible looking horses.
So the memory of Rich Strike’s victory is definitely at play for this year’s Derby, and impacting everything from telecast preparation to betting odds.
NBC and Peacock will both air a record seven and a half hours of live Derby coverage Saturday, beginning at noon Eastern. Post time for the Derby itself is set for 6:57 p.m. ET.
[NBC Sports Group Press Box; photo from Sam Upshaw Jr./The Louisville Courier-Journal, via USA Today Sports]