Ken Adelson, Executive Producer, America's Best Racing
2012 was the beginning of something big for the horse racing industry as America’s Best Racing was born, engaging a new generation of fans with a focus on lifestyle, entertainment, competition and gambling. Using the new ABR website, network television broadcasts, social media, extensive video production and on-site engagement, ABR is engineered to drive fan development and bring a fresh perspective to the sport.
I was privileged to be part of the launch team and help build the overall strategy. Of course, one of the most powerful tools in the social media age is video and the ability to reach people in ways unheard of just a few short years ago. We got out of the gate quickly with a series of vignettes designed to help introduce new fans to the game. They were used all year long on the ABR website, posted on many racetrack sites and aired on NBC during our "Road to the Kentucky Derby Broadcasts." We asked Joe Kristufek from Horseplayer Now to be our host and in one jam packed day at Gulfstream Park in Florida, shot a dozen segments we called "Racing 101."
Next stop was our "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series of broadcasts on NBC and NBC Sports Network. For these shows ABR brought in Eclipse Award-winning racing storytellers John and Brad Hennegan to produce a series of behind-the-scenes segments, introducing fans to the personalities of the game and story lines that led up to the Triple Crown series.
In early April, the America's Best Racing Website officially launched. We dubbed our video series as “Insider” and the integrated social media efforts, led by Penelope Miller, swung into high gear.
On the first Saturday in May, John Hennegan and I were at Churchill Downs, producing dozens of behind-the-scenes videos. They were not only published on ABR in real time, but also posted on multiple national sports and entertainment websites and on leading newspaper websites throughout the country.
After I’ll Have Another’s thrilling come from behind win at the Derby, we stuck close to team O’Neill (winning trainer Doug O’Neill and his stable crew) at the Preakness Stakes (G1), and Hennegan captured one of the great behind-the-scenes moments of the season.
Right after I’ll Have Another put himself in the position to win the Triple Crown, John and I regrouped in the parking lot at Pilmico Race Course and realized we were sitting on an incredible amount of original material that could help set the stage for the Belmont Stakes (G1). We proposed an idea to our partners at NBC Sports for a full half-hour preview show to air before the Belmont Stakes, and they agreed. In less than three weeks, we crafted the program and named it “I’ll Have Another: Charging Toward History”.
The show was scheduled to air on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the Belmont Stakes. It aired on Thursday night, but I’ll Have Another was scratched on Friday. It just didn’t make sense to re-air a show previewing a horse who was not going to run.
We followed through with another series of real-time, behind-the-scenes "Insider" videos at the Belmont capturing the great moments as Union Rags etched his name into history.
The Triple Crown was over but horse racing's second season, “The Championship Season” was just getting revved up. As we started planning our coverage, we also put together this look back at what America's Best Racing had brought to the sport in our first three months of our existence. The video was edited by John Kelly and Justin Wolfson.
Stay tuned, coming soon Part II of the ABR Year in Video.
Ken Adelson is executive producer for America’s Best Racing. A veteran sports producer, media executive, sportscaster and video journalist, Ken is a lifelong fan of the sport. He has been to Saratoga Race Course for 34 straight summers and was at Belmont Park when Affirmed completed a sweep of the Triple Crown in the 1978 Belmont Stakes. He hopes to be there again when fate shines on the next Triple Crown winner.