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Horse Racing: Meadows' network to get a new look

Sunday, December 22, 2002

By Pohla Smith, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The Meadows Racing Network will have a new look Jan. 1 as it becomes part of Magna Entertainment's new nationwide channel, Horse Racing Television, or HRTV.

The biggest change will occur during the shows in the daytime and on nights the Meadows doesn't race, when HRTV will replace the local hosts for simulcast races from across the United States.

HRTV, launched in July out of Santa Anita, Calif., is being marketed as a "competitive product to TVG," or the Television Gaming Network, according to Xpress Bet President Ron Luniewski.

Luniewski said the same tracks simulcast by the Meadows will be on HRTV. Customers will need no new equipment and will find the show on the same cable channel as before.

"Our guys here did a great job," he said. "But frankly, what they're going to see is a much better produced show. The quality is going to be better and that's what we're excited about. We think we've improved the product through the use of HRTV."

Like TVG, HRTV also will have special segments and programs. "We're investing substantially more money with a goal of attracting new fans," Luniewski said. "There will be handicapping tips, shows on how racing works. There will be people sitting at a set like on ESPN or Fox Sports and there will be racing all day. It's going to be a 24-by-7 nationally produced horse racing show."

There also are some changes in the Meadows' live coverage of its races. Besides Roger Huston and the rotating co-hosts, there will be a reporter down in the paddock providing interviews with drivers and trainers. The interviews were part of the show several years ago.

"I've always felt paddock interviews are an integral part of the racing network," Huston said.

There also will be interstitial broadcasts of thoroughbred races, probably from Santa Anita or Sam Houston.

"At 10 minutes to [Meadows] post until seven minutes, we will cover whatever track [Magna is] doing, showing the race either live or on video tape," Huston said.

A horse is a horse ...

Rockingham Park couldn't reach agreement with thoroughbred horsemen on dates for the next two years, so harness racing is returning to the New Hampshire track in 2003. Rockingham got state approval to serve as host for 100 programs from May 24 through Sept. 1 with racing four days a week. There has been no harness racing at Rockingham since 1980, when fire destroyed the clubhouse and grandstand. When it reopened in 1984, it conducted thoroughbred racing.

A change in venue

Four of the Meadowlands' top late-season races are being moved to Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ontario, for the 2003 season only. The races -- the Governor's Cup, and the three Diamonds, Valley Victory and Goldsmith Maid stakes -- are all for 2-year-olds. The change in venue is because the Big M is hosting the Breeders Crown races for 2- and 3-year-olds next fall.

Triple Tiara changes

The New York Racing Association will offer a $2 million bonus next year to any 3-year-old filly that can sweep the Mother Goose Stakes, the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama Stakes. The Alabama replaces the Acorn in the series. The purse of the Mother Goose, June 28 at Belmont, was raised from $250,000 to $300,000; The Oaks was increased from $350,000 to $500,000 and is at Belmont on July 19; and the $750,000 Alabama is Aug. 16 at Saratoga.

Big good sports

The Turf Publicists of America have voted trainer Ken McPeek and his wife Sue the 2002 winners of the Big Sport of Turfdom award.

"Throughout the year, and especially in the months leading up to and including the Triple Crown, Ken and Sue consistently made themselves available to a wide range of media representatives. They did so through good times and bad," TPA president Bob Curran Jr. said.

McPeek lost the Kentucky Derby with favorite Harlan's Holiday but won the Belmont Stakes with long shot Sarava.

Kutz honored

Jockey Dean Kutz, who has survived an amazing list of medical problems to ride, is the latest recipient of NYRA's Mike Venezia Memorial Award, given for "extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship." Kutz was born with one kidney, then got kidney disease in 1984 and eventually had a transplant. In March 1999, he had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his throat, but he lost his larynx and now talks through a mechanical voice box.

A small bit

The NTRA has picked up three new members, effective Jan. 1: Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and the Oregon HBPA.

Pohla Smith can be reached at psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228.

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