It was on track to be one of the highest-rated sports events in years, but now the Belmont Stakes on NBC Saturday won’t score nearly the ratings it would have, now that the star horse has had to be withdrawn.
NBC quickly acknowledged its disappointment Friday in a statement issued even before the official announcement that I’ll Have Another, the 3-year-old colt that was a heavy favorite to win horseracing’s first Triple Crown in 34 years, was being withdrawn from the race due to tendonitis.
“While we are obviously disappointed that our show won’t feature I’ll Have Another going for the elusive Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes is still an iconic event on the sports schedule, and the NBC Sports Group broadcasts will treat it as such,” the statement from NBC Sports said. “We’re working now to adjust the game plan accordingly.”
What that means is: Instead of planning and producing pre-race segments on I’ll Have Another’s chances of winning the Triple Crown — segments that were no doubt produced well in advance and ready to go — producers will now switch gears to developing segments on what went wrong with the horse, and which remaining horses stand the best chances of winning the Belmont Stakes.
The Triple Crown, of course, is off the table, now that I’ll Have Another — winner of both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — is out of the running.
Nevertheless, NBC Sports’ coverage of the Belmont Stakes airs from 5 p.m. Saturday until 7 p.m. (4-6c).