The 144th-annual Preakness Stakes will take place Saturday evening, and after the crazy finish at this year’s Kentucky Derby and no chance of a Triple Crown winner, executives at NBC must be wondering how many viewers will actually tune in.
For the first time in 23 years, the winner of the Kentucky Derby won’t be competing in the Preakness. In fact, none of the horses that finished in the top three — Country House, Code of Honor, and Tacitus — will be running at Pimlico Race Course (Country House is out due to a mild illness).
Maximum Security, who crossed the finish line first at the Derby but was disqualified for riding out of his lane and interfering with the path of several horses as the field rounded the final turn, also won’t compete in the Preakness due to abrasions sustained at Churchill Downs. My colleague Bob Ford thought the ruling was correct, while Dick Jerardi thought Maximum Security shouldn’t have been disqualified.
Most casual viewers watch the Preakness to find out if there will be a Triple Crown winner. There’s not even a chance of one this year, which is likely to depress viewership. Justify’s Preakness win last year drew historically low ratings.
“It’s a nightmare for NBC,” retired horse racing writer Andrew Beyer told the Washington Post’s Brian Strauss. “You couldn’t imagine a worse scenario. But the horse owners aren’t paid talent; they don’t answer to a TV network.”
Of those racing Saturday, the overall favorite appears to be Improbable (5-2), with owner Bob Baffert going for his record eighth Preakness win. Dick Jerardi likes War of Will (4-1), who was involved in the bumping incident that disqualified Maximum Security during the Kentucky Derby.
When: Saturday, May 18
Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore
Post time: 6:48 p.m. (Race 13)
Hosts: Mike Tirico
Race caller: Larry Collmus
Streaming: NBC Sports app, NBCSports.com/LiveExtra (require authentication), Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Playstation Vue, DirectTV Now, Fubo TV (all require a subscription).
Before NBC switches over to its live Preakness coverage at 5 p.m., the network will air three hours of pre-event coverage on NBCSN, beginning at 2 p.m.
NBC’s live coverage will feature Tirico and a host of announcers and personalities, including analyst Randy Moss and hockey analyst and longtime handicapper Eddie Olczyk. The coverage will also feature an essay about what happened at the Kentucky Derby by Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden and an interview with Gary West, the owner of disqualified Maximum Security, who has filed a lawsuit to overturn the race’s outcome.
1. War of Will (4-1)
2. Bourbon War (12-1)
3. Warrior’s Charge (12-1)
4. Improbable (5-2)
5. Owendale (10-1)
6. Market King (30-1)
7. AlwaysMining (8-1)
8. Signalman (30-1)
9. Bodexpress (20-1)
10. Everfast (50-1)
11. Laughing Fox (20-1)
12. AnotherTwistaFate (6-1)
13. Win Win Win (15-1)
For more details, my colleague Ed Barkowitz has a breakdown of each horse, complete with their jockeys, career earnings, and 2019 stats.
• Kentucky Derby: Saturday, May 5 — winner Country House
• Preakness Stakes: Saturday, May 18, 5 p.m., Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore (NBC)