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'Road to the Kentucky Derby' TV schedule announced

The Jockey Club, in collaboration with the NBC Sports Group and six racetracks, announced Tuesday that it will provide live coverage of six major prep races for the 2013 Kentucky Derby, as well as a 30-minute special previewing the Triple Crown season during the last two Saturdays in March and the first two Saturdays in April.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby series starts with a 30-minute special previewing the televised races and the Triple Crown season. The special will air on NBC Sports Network on Saturday, March 23, from 6-6:30 p.m. (ET).

The racing telecasts kick off Saturday, March 30, with the Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park and the Louisiana Derby from Fair Grounds on NBC Sports Network from 6-7 p.m.

The Wood Memorial from Aqueduct Racetrack and the Santa Anita Derby from Santa Anita Park will air on NBC Sports Network on Saturday, April 6, from 6-7:30 p.m.

The series will conclude on Saturday, April 13, with 2 1/2 hours of continuous coverage spread across two networks.

A 90-minute live broadcast on NBC featuring the Blue Grass Stakes from Keeneland Race Course will be followed by a one-hour broadcast on the NBC Sports Network featuring the Arkansas Derby. The NBC telecast will air from 4:30-6 p.m.; the NBC Sports Network telecast will air from 6-7 p.m.

All six races fall into the highest tier on Churchill Downs' new points system to determine starters for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4, on NBC. The points system features 36 stakes races overall and 17 marquee events that comprise a 10-week run up to the first Saturday in May.

"The Jockey Club is committed to bringing some of our sport's best races to a national television audience, and we are proud to be underwriting the Road to the Kentucky Derby again this spring in collaboration with the NBC Sports Group and six racetracks," said Ogden Mills Phipps, chairman of The Jockey Club. "Increasing the television presence of Thoroughbred racing is one of the fan development initiatives we have embraced over the past 18 months, and we will continue to aggressively cross-promote Thoroughbred racing not only on television but also on a variety of traditional and new digital media platforms."

"These important prep races build excitement and interest in the Kentucky Derby and they also complement the NBC Sports Group's coverage of the sport of Thoroughbred racing, which already includes long-term deals for the Triple Crown races and Breeders' Cup as well as races from Saratoga, said Jon Miller, president, programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network.

Increased television coverage of Thoroughbred racing and the development of a new digital media strategy were among nine major recommendations identified in the major economic study of the Thoroughbred industry that was commissioned by The Jockey Club and conducted in association with the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company in 2011.

Road to the Kentucky Derby coverage (all times Eastern):

Date   Time   Network   Race
3/23   6-6:30 p.m.   NBC Sports Network   Road to the Kentucky Derby preview show
3/30   6-7 p.m.   NBC Sports Network   Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby
4/6   6-7:30 p.m.   NBC Sports Network   Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby
4/13   4:30-6 p.m.   NBC   Blue Grass Stakes
4/13   6-7 p.m.   NBC Sports Network   Arkansas Derby

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