As Lindsay Schanzer Makes Kentucky Derby History at Front Bench, NBC Sports Welcomes Back Full-Capacity Crowds at Churchill Downs
Schanzer is the first woman ever to produce the Derby
After serving nearly a decade on NBC Sports’ Kentucky Derby production crew, Lindsay Schanzer takes the Kentucky Derby reins for the first time this weekend. Although the new senior producer of NBC’s Triple Crown coverage has served as lead producer of the broadcaster’s Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup, and Royal Ascot productions since 2020 and produced last year’s Belmont Stakes, tomorrow’s race at Churchill Downs marks her first time leading production of horse racing’s most iconic event.
“What’s it going to feel like? I think, hopefully, given the experience that I’ve had, it won’t feel too different,” she says. “I think part of the beauty of this job and the way it has been set up for me is that I will be surrounded by people I’ve been working with in some capacity for 10 years.”
Indeed, although this is Schanzer’s first year overseeing the Derby — the first woman ever to do so — the bulk of NBC’s established production team under previous producer Rob Hyland remains in place. To her left in the truck will be longtime NBC Associate Producer, Horse Racing, Amy Zimmerman, and to her right will be Director Drew Esocoff, who has called the shots for every Derby since 2011. Producer Billy Matthews and Director Kaare Numme also return to handle USA Network’s coverage leading up to the main event on NBC.
“I think it will feel like a comfortable position with a lot of responsibility,” says the five-time Sports Emmy winner. “I’m sure there will be nerves — as I think my predecessors would say they had as well — but I think I’ll feel excited and grateful and that sense of comfort and peace that comes with the people around you being the people that you call family and are really lucky to work with.”
NBC Onsite at Churchill Downs: 50+ Cameras, 16 Announcers, Capacity Crowds
NBC Sports kicks off more than 12 hours of Kentucky Derby Week action today with live coverage of the Kentucky Oaks on USA Network; Saturday’s live coverage begins at noon ET on USA Network. Over the two days, NBC Sports will televise 15 races as part of its 12 hours of live coverage from Churchill Downs, including a live five-hour Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday on NBC and Peacock.
“We’re thrilled to bring this event to viewers across the country and the globe,” says Schanzer. “With over 50 cameras, including drone coverage to cover the full scope of the event and cameras on the helmets of jockeys in the race, we think we’re in a position to give all of our viewers the best seat in the house.”
In addition to the cameras, NBC has trotted out 16 announcers at Churchill Downs led by host Mike Tirico, anchoring Derby coverage for the sixth time. Longtime analysts Jerry Bailey, Randy Moss, and Eddie Olczyk are also back and will be joined by reporters Ahmed Fareed, Britney Eurton, Donna Brothers, Kenny Rice, and Nick Luck, along with race caller Larry Collmus. For the second consecutive year, NBC News’ Steve Kornacki is back to provide deeper odds analysis, NBC Sports’ Tim Layden will deliver an essay, and NBC News’ Dylan Dreyer and E!’s Zanna Roberts Rassi will serve as fashion correspondents. Special lifestyle correspondents Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rutledge Wood will also bring some fun to the proceedings with a Derby Day “scavenger hunt,” taking viewers behind the scenes to rarely seen locations at Churchill Downs.
“We’ve got 16 announcers who will cover every nook and cranny of this unique and special venue,” says Schanzer.
In addition to an army of on-air talent covering the Derby, NBC Sports’ Premier League studio show will be live from Churchill Downs on Saturday morning. Rebecca Lowe will host the Premier League Mornings and Premier League Live shows alongside analysts Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe, and Tim Howard from the paddock. Lowe, who was part of NBC Sports’ 2019 Kentucky Derby team, will then join NBC’s Derby coverage as a feature host during Saturday’s Run for the Roses.
“Rebecca Lowe will do the Football/Derby double,” says Schanzer. “When she’s done with her coverage on Premier League, she’ll flip over and join our show. We’re really excited about having her back.”
Although the cavalcade of cameras and on-air talent is sure to bring plenty of excitement to NBC’s broadcast, nothing can match the energy provided by full-capacity crowds at a Kentucky Derby. After holding the Derby in September in 2020 and with only a limited audience last May, Churchill Downs will welcome back a capacity crowd for the first time since 2019.
“To me, there is no day like the Kentucky Derby,” says Schanzer. “It is a singular event in all of American sports and beyond. After a crazy stretch of dramatic and controversial finishes, plus a September Derby in the middle of a pandemic and an empty Churchill Downs, we are looking forward to a full-capacity venue and, hopefully, a great race with a true celebration in the winner’s circle.”
USA Network kicks off coverage from the Derby with the Kentucky Oaks today at 1 p.m. ET. NBC and Peacock’s coverage of the 148th Kentucky Derby begins at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow.