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Breeders’ Cup in primetime tonight

Update 5:52 p.m.: Santa Anita jockey Gary Stevens wins the esteemed Breeders’ Cup Classic by a nose in a photo finish at age 50 for the first time in his career. Saturday attendance was a very big 58,795.

NBC will televise the biggest race of today’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park in primetime tonight (Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013) from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. PT on local KNBC TV 4. The two-day event in Arcadia was expected to draw a crowd of more than 50,000 today after nearly 36,000 attended on Friday. (Local police traffic alert below…)

10:30 a.m. today, courtesy of Arcadia Police Department's Air Support TFO Mike Hale

10:30 a.m. today, courtesy of Arcadia Police Department’s Air Support TFO Mike Hale

Already on the first day of the Breeders’ Cup Friday, Nov. 1, Hall of Fame jockeys Gary Stevens (50 years-old) and Mike Smith (48 years-old) — dubbed the Geritol Jockeys and the Sunshine Boys — won several major races, Smith the first two races, including his record 19th BC victory over Stevens in the $1 million Juvenile Turf (Grade I), and Stevens the $2 million Distaff race later in the day. But this morning Stevens was disqualified from his photo-finish victory because his horse bumped his closest competitor just before the finish. Meanwhile, Smith extended his record with a 20th BC win aboard radio announcer Jim Rome’s MizDirection in the Turf Sprint this afternoon. And high-profile Santa Anita trainer Bob Baffert already won two races today so far.

NBC began its coverage today on sister network NBC Sports Network with a preview during the Notre Dame-Navy pregame show. Coverage on NBCSN continues to 5 p.m. before switching to the broadcast NBC network parent at 5 p.m. for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in the twilight at 5:45 p.m. The Classic, the race that featured what is considered one of the most exciting and historic of all-time in 2009 at Santa Anita when Zenyatta came from last place to become the first female to ever win the race, is a 1 ¼-mile race for 3-year-olds and older, and is often the determining race for the coveted Horse of the Year title. Both Stevens and Smith are riding in the Classic. Stevens aboard Mucho Macho Man, and Smith riding favorite Game on Dude. Smith is featured in this year’s Arcadia Chamber of Commerce video “Arcadia’s Got it All.”

Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush, who interviewed Hall of Fame NFL quarterback John Elway and later Bo Derek at the track this afternoon, will host the first half hour of the primetime show, which will focus on the spectacle and scene of the 30th Breeders’ Cup, followed by a performance of the Breeders’ Cup anthem “The Best is Yet to Come” by Emmy and Tony Award-winning star of stage and screen Kristin Chenoweth. E! News’ Catt Sadler, who interviewed Bode Miller amd richie Sambora at the track this afternoon, will contribute celebrity interviews and reports from the Breeders’ Cup “purple carpet.” Shortly after 3:30 p.m. today, six-time Grammy Award winner Toni Braxton sang the national anthem.

The two networks are combining to cover all 14 BC races. Coverage is hosted by Tom Hammond, whose first-ever assignment for NBC was as a reporter on the network’s inaugural Breeders’ Cup broadcast in 1984. Hall of Fame Santa Anita jockey Laffit Pincay III is serving as host/reporter.

The Friday crowd of 35,833 represented a 3.5% increase over last year’s attendance of 34,619 at Santa Anita though down from the BC at Santa Anita in 2009 (37,651). Friday attendance topped 40,000 at Churchill Downs in Kentucky un 2010 (41,614) and 2011 (40,677). The Friday BC races at Santa Anita in 2008 drew 31,257. Total handle for Friday’s 11-race card was $51,521,146, up 8% from last year’s $47,586,765. Total handle for the five Breeders’ Cup races was $35,549,196. On-track handle was $7,205,145.

Breeders’ Cup announced earlier this year that the global competition will return to Santa Anita for an unprecedented third consecutive year in 2014.


Conan O’Brien (r) calls race at Santa Anita with regular track announcer Trevor Denman looking on.

Last week (Oct. 25), latenight talk show host/comedian Conan O’Brien called a race at the track in front of regular legendary Santa Anita track announcer Trevor Denman who has called races in Arcaida since 1983. Santa Anita released quotes from O’Brien after the race: “I memorized all the colors on the sides of the horses (numbered saddle cloths),” said O’Brien. “Then, ten minutes before the race Trevor told me ‘No, that’s not how we do it. We do it by their outfits (jockey silks). So I had all these mnemonics set up for all of the horses and I had to completely forget everything. It’s like being told seconds before the SAT that it will be in German. So I was horrified…”

For locals trying to drive in the area today, this police traffic alert during the hours of 3:45 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.:

  1. No left or right turns will be allowed from east or westbound Huntington Drive to northbound Baldwin Avenue. (Through traffic proceeding north on Baldwin Avenue from south of Huntington Drive OK.)

  2. No left turn from eastbound Huntington Drive to northbound Santa Anita Avenue.

  3. Colorado Place closed to southbound traffic between Colorado Street and Huntington Drive.

  4. No access to Baldwin Avenue, either north or southbound, from Colorado Street.

  5. Traffic will be heavy in areas surrounding the Santa Anita Race Track , Mall, and downtown Arcadia during these closure periods. Officers will be operating signal controls to assist with traffic flow. Please avoid the area if possible or use alternate routes.

— By Scott Hettrick

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