2017 Horse Racing Television Schedule

A Guide to Televised Horse Races

Kentucky Derby, Chruchill Downs
Joseph McNally / The Image Bank / Getty Images

No horse racing fan wants to miss a major race, but unless we're talking the Triple Crown, the Breeders' Cup, the Dubai World Cup or the Pegasus World Cup Invitational that was launched in 2017, you might have to hunt a bit for race coverage on television. You do have options, however. 

It's not much different from being a devoted Seattle Seahawks fan who just happens to live in Florida. Throw enough money at your television and you'll get the games. The same is true for live horse racing coverage. You can subscribe to TVG or HRTV on cable or satellite and get your fill. Beyond that, some other high-profile stakes races do get national coverage.

Here's a list of some of the major races covered by NBC in 2017. If you're looking for a race that's not listed, visit the track's website. As the race dates get closer, the tracks will usually tell you where you can watch. And — as a last resort — most tracks also offer video replays of each race of the day on their websites. 

  • May 5: Kentucky Oaks, Churchill Downs
  • May 6: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs 
  • May 20: Preakness Stakes, Pimlico 
  • June 10: Belmont Stakes, Belmont Park 
  • Aug. 26: Travers Day, Saratoga, 
  • Nov. 3 and 4: Breeders' Cup, Del Mar

The History of Televised Racing 

The sport of horse racing made a near-fatal error decades ago when television was first gaining in popularity. Fearing a loss of live attendance and betting handles, the sport avoided being shown on live TV. Internet wagering and off-track betting was virtually unheard of back then. The sport felt that if enthusiasts didn't physically go to their nearest tracks to place their wagers, a centuries-old sport would die. It was a valid concern at the time. 

This paved the way for other sports, most notably NFL football and NASCAR, to rapidly expand their fan bases because they were on TV. Racing fans remained limited to the Triple Crown and, eventually, the Breeders' Cup, with little to no coverage of other events. 

Then various TV networks got interested. ABC was the home of the Triple Crown for years, and NBC was home to the Breeders' Cup. ABC-owned ESPN showed a few races over the rest of the year, including some major Derby-prep stakes races. Then, in the 2000s, it all switched around. NBC took over the Triple Crown broadcasts while ABC/ESPN took over the Breeders' Cup. 

To say that ABC/ESPN backstabbed horse racing would be an understatement. The Breeders' Cup World Championship races were relegated to ESPN2. The undercard races were not shown at all. They were picked up by racing-only channel TVG. In what turned out to be the final two years of their Breeders' Cup deal, ESPN showed no prep races at all, as though the network felt no need to hype the big event. This would be like a network telecasting only the Super Bowl but not the NFL playoffs. 

The Breeders' Cup and ESPN had a less-than-amicable split, and NBC was there waiting to take back what had once been theirs. NBC hasn't been faultless. The Breeders' Cup was relegated to NBC Sports Network in the first years, with only the Classic shown on the main network, but in 2016, some undercard races were included. And NBC does show live racing throughout the year, including major preps for the Triple Crown, several Breeders' Cup Challenge "win-and-you're-in" races, and the popular "Summer at Saratoga" series. Most of these are on NBC SN with the more popular events such as the Travers Stakes going on the main NBC network.

Racing in 2017 

Other networks have picked up the slack as well, most notably FOX Sports 1 through its deal with The Jockey Club. This network shows some major races in the summer and fall. Superstation WGN in Chicago carries the two biggest races in Illinois, the Illinois Derby in the spring and the Arlington Million in the summer. North of the border, TSN — which is ironically minority-owned by ESPN — carries Canada's major races, including its Triple Crown, and the major fall turf events at Woodbine. TSN also carries the Breeders' Cup because NBC SN is not available to Canadians.

A commonly heard complaint among racing fans, and especially among hardcore wagerers, is that the networks spend too much time on human interest stories and too little on the actual sport of racing. NBC failed to show any undercard stakes races on Triple Crown race days, and they were unavailable elsewhere due to the network's exclusivity deals. But this complaint has not fallen on deaf ears and the sport of horse racing continues to thrive and draw in its avid fans. 

If you can't find a race — or an undercard race — this year, don't despair. Between the ever-changing television landscape, track websites and networks like TVG, you should have no problem at all watching your selected winner burn its way across the wire.