Curtis MacDonald’s Cujo Entertainment is producing
an hour-long Hambletonian show to be broadcast in two weeks’ time”
time on the CBS Sports Network.
by Debbie Little
By this point, the Hambletonian had long had its own TV show, even if it wasn’t always live.
For a brief moment this year, there was a real possibility that the series would end, but the show would go on.
Curtis MacDonald’s Cujo Entertainment will produce the show, which will be taped on Hambletonian Day and broadcast on CBS Sports Network (CBSSN) on Sunday, August 21, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“It’s more of a history hour that includes 97th Hambo and Oaks,” said Moira Fanning, director of publicity/chief operating officer for the Hambletonian Society.
With so much content flooding the tube these days, it was initially difficult to get a one-hour block of time for the historic race. For example, at 6:35 p.m., the Hambletonian free time on Saturday, August 6, CBSSN will show 3ICE, live three-on-three professional ice hockey.
“When the planning for the Hambletonian started, I was asked to do the cable camera again, and then we tossed around the idea of maybe COSA-TV coming in to do a show, because I believe at the time CBS didn’t have air time for the Hambletonian,” McDonald said. “Moira wanted to do more than just a simulcast show. The simulcast served the purpose for the disabled, but she wanted
entertainment value of a network-style show like what we do for COSA-TV.
“If you bet, the simulcast show is great because Dave [Brower] and Dave [Little] and anyone else has given you what their selections are and all the handicap type stuff, but a lot of people just want to sit back and watch it. They want to be entertained. Whether it’s two, three, four hours, whatever, they want something to be entertaining, and that’s where COSA-TV has a bit of a niche. We do this. We cover all types of events in Ontario where we do it for entertainment value only. Yes, we show the odds and talk about handicapping, but we focus on the people in the paddock. We focus on stories. We’ll usually do one or two broadcast features where we highlight the horses in the race. So, it’s more of an entertainment show than a simulcast show.”
With CBS initially off the table, the Hambletonian would still be shown live on Fox Sports 1 [FS1] as part of Saratoga Live presented by America’s Best Racing, but will not be a standalone production.
“But then CBS came back and said, ‘We’ll give you a primetime hour next week if you want to do a kind of historical Hambletonian and Hambo Oaks recap,'” Fanning said. “We all agreed that the Hambletonian deserves a little more attention than anything America’s Best Racing may or may not insert, and to get a look at the ’97 Hambo, you don’t have to flip through 16 races at the Meadowlands to find it.”
MacDonald is honored to produce the biggest race in sports and to once again be a part of their biggest day.
“It’s actually funny,” McDonald said. “I talked to my wife [Jaimi] about it the other day and I said probably in 2018 – or something like that – we went and worked for Harness Racing Update to cover the Hambletonian. And every year since, barring COVID, we seem to be more engaged with the Hambletonian. In 2020 Greg [Blanchard] and i went out and filmed luke blais because they won in 2019 [with Forbidden Trade]. So we made a film about Luke Blais and Bob McClure to show on the CBS Hambletonian show. Then in 2021 I went down and did the cable camera and now this year we’re doing a show. It seems like we’ve gone from just watching on TV here in Canada to being a bit involved and now we’re really heavily involved.”
Just as he did for the 2021 Breeders Crown, Macdonald will broadcast live on Hambletonian Day as part of COSA-TV, which will broadcast live from 3:00-5:15 p.m., then take a 45-minute break to show the feed on the Big M simulcast before returning live at 5:55pm with the CBSSN show.
During the COSA-TV broadcast, which will be hosted by Greg Blanchard, with Michael Carter in the paddock, MacDonald will use additional equipment, such as a super slow-motion camera at the finish line, to add to the experience.
“We’re adding a bunch of extra cameras that don’t necessarily fit into a simulcast, because with a simulcast, you want to see the race,” McDonald said. “You want to be able to see where the horses are at all times because you have the money for that.
“We’re trying to entertain you and give you those close, tight shots that are more fun to watch than a simulcast type of show.”
For CBSSN’s hour-delayed flashback, The Meadowlands’ Greg Blanchard and Dave Brower will be on the desk with Michael Carter in the paddock.
The Meadowlands’ Jessica Otten, along with Gabe Pruitt, will once again be on the show live at Saratoga, which will air on Fox Sports 2 from 12:30-5pm and on FS1 and SNY from 6-7pm
As always, The Meadowlands simulcast, hosted by Brower and co-hosted by Little, will be live on Facebook and YouTube beginning with the pregame show at 11:30 a.m.