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NBC's Kentucky Derby call praised; producer sheds light on process

Larry Collmus’ call on NBC of the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby was "incredible," and he "absolutely nailed the call of the dramatic ending" as 80-1 underdog Rich Strike won the race, according to Andy Nesbitt of USA TODAY (5/9). In N.Y., Andrew Marchand writes "what a tremendous call." Collmus said, "oh my goodness," as Rich Strike won. Collmus’ words were "excellent," but it was the "inflection that really made it." Horse racing "isn’t golf or baseball, where you have a lot of time to think." Marchand: "You have to completely trust yourself, and Collmus’ voice led the way, telling the diehard fan and the novice the same thing: What you just watched was shocking" (N.Y. POST, 5/9).

HOW IT PLAYED OUT: NBC's Senior Producer for the race, Lindsay Schanzer, said as Rich Strike crossed the finish line, "before anything else," her role was "to let the moment play out." Schanzer said, "It was the time for [Director Drew Esocoff] to capture all of the images in the immediate aftermath, for Mike Tirico to provide the emotion and the context for what had just happened, and for Wendel Stevens (who is responsible for audio) to ride the sounds of the winning jockey who had just made history. That was first." Schanzer said it was then time to "answer the question every viewer was asking -- where did this horse come from?" She said, "We had extensive camera coverage from every angle, but it was really from above that did justice to the feat of this horse and this rider. We were able to utilize a dual tracking system on our aerial coverage to follow both Epicenter and Rich Strike from the far turn down the lane, and I think that gave viewers a crystal clear understanding of how he wove through traffic, kicked into a ridiculous gear, and won the race." Schanzer: "Finally, it was to meet the emotional connections of this winning team, and get their immediate reactions to what had just happened. I am incredibly proud of how our team reacted to the moment" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/9).

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: WWE leveraged its relationship with NBCUniversal by having several of its performers on the Kentucky Derby coverage. Bianca Belair and Montez Ford were featured in a standalone segment on fashion at the Derby. Additionally, Cody Rhodes and The Miz were featured on the celebrity predictions segment that aired in the final hour. Belair also took over NBC Sports’ women’s sports vertical “On Her Turf” on Instagram all day Saturday to capture her behind-the-scenes experience at the event (WWE).

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