Continuing an award-winning tradition, Alberta horse racing will return to CTV this summer
. After capturing three major broadcasting awards in 2008, the Horse Racing Alberta/White Iron Productions crew will handle five live television shows this year.
The centrepiece of the schedule is the $300,000 Canadian Derby on Aug. 22 from 3-5 p.m. on all CTV Alberta stations. The TV schedule also includes the Alberta Fall Classic, two harness broadcasts and the Canada Cup quarter horse race. "Last year was proof that the broadcast team is working," said Horse Racing Alberta marketing manager Jeff Robillard. "We won a Sovereign award (for TV excellence) for a third year in a row. We also won Standardbred Canada's media excellence award." The broadcast crew also captured the John Hervey award for North American harness TV excellence and received honourable mention in the local broadcasting category at the Eclipse awards for the 2008 season.
A major reduction in HRA's marketing budget is the reason behind the TV schedule being cut in half this year after airing 10 shows last year on CTV. The 2009 television sked has also been adjusted - unlike last year - to avoid going head-to-head with CFL games. "Last year we went head-to-head with CFL properties a couple of times and got killed," continued Robillard. That is the reason behind the industry's decision to move the Alberta Fall Classic from Sept. 26 to Sept. 19.
In 2007, the Fall Classic garnered 183,000 viewers - topping the Canadian Derby at 155,000. Last year, the Derby and Fall Classic both attracted more than 100,000 viewers on CTV, according to Robillard. While the audience figures are impressive, the TV shows have received criticism from some thoroughbred horsemen. Les Butler - Northlands Park's chief racing executive - countered the criticism today.
"Every show featuring Northlands Park brings new sign-ups for HPI accounts and the Players’ Club. Every show brings-in new young customers. Every show increases account wagering activity. Every show elicits over 1,000 downloads of the past performance program for the races featured on that show," said Butler. "My opinion is if we aren’t on television then we aren’t really trying. Yes they are expensive but they are nowhere near as costly to our Industry as being completely ignored – which is about where we’d be without the television shows."
The entire 2009 TV schedule: (each show on CFRN-TV Edmonton and CFCN-TV Calgary, all times MT)
Sat. Aug. 8 (3-4 p.m.) $50,000 Wild Rose (three-year-old fillies), $50,000 Adios Pick (three-year-old colts) - Grande Prairie harness
Sat. Aug. 22 (3-5 p.m.) $300,000 Canadian Derby - Edmonton's Northlands Park thoroughbred
Sat. Sept. 12 (4-5 p.m.) $75,000 AB Marquis (three-year-old filly), $75,000 Alberta Maverick (three-year-old colts) - Grande Prairie harness
Sat. Sept. 19 (4-6 p.m.) Alberta Fall Classic - Edmonton's Northlands Park, thoroughbred
Sun. Sept. 27 (4-5 p.m.) Canada Cup - Lethbridge, quarter horse
FINISH LINES: The on-air broadcast team of Crystal Leriger, Dawn Lupul, Jonathan Huntington and Robillard will return this year, with Bruce Yost handling production.