Networks live for moments like Saturday's Belmont Stakes, and NBC is set if I'll Have Another claims the Triple Crown. The last winner was in 1978, when Affirmed won all three races with jockey Steve Cauthen on board.
NBC analyst Gary Stevens, a Hall of Fame jockey who was a three-time winner of the Belmont, understands how tough it is to win a Triple Crown. Aboard Silver Charm in 1997, he missed out when the horse lost to Touch Gold by less than a length at the Belmont. Still, Stevens and the entire broadcast crew of Tom Hammond, Randy Moss, Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier know that -- while it is still far from a sure thing come Saturday -- history could be made by I'll Have Another.
Can you talk about your mentor, Steve Cauthen?
Stevens » "It's one of the reasons I became a jockey was the 1978 Triple Crown. I remember being at the small racetrack in Boise, Idaho, sitting on a table watching the young Steve Cauthen win aboard Affirmed and the great battle the last quarter of a mile. There was a head separating them at the eighth pole, and there was a head separating them at the finish line. And it gave me a lot of incentive to go on and be a jockey."
What about I'll Have Another jockey Mario Gutierrez?
Stevens » "I can't tell you the amount of pressure that's on a young jockey or even an experienced jockey. And with Mario being 25 years old and the success he's had at the many different racetracks he's competed at in a brief career, I have all the confidence in the world that he can pull it off if everything goes right."
What will it be like in the broadcast booth Saturday?
Stevens » "Sitting in the broadcast stand alongside Tom Hammond and Randy Moss and all of our crew, I've got the best seat in the house. I get to talk about it and talk to my experiences and what it takes to win a Triple Crown and just how difficult it is. I was beaten by a short margin by Touch Gold in '97 and came back in '98 and became the spoiler. So I was on both sides of the fence and hope to be able to talk about those things and let the fans out there know just how difficult it is."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this!, on washingtonexaminer.com.