Curtis MacDonald’s Cujo Entertainment is producing one
The hour-long Hambletonian show to air 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 time this year, there was a real possibility that the series would end, but the show will go on.
Curtis MacDonald’s Cujo Entertainment will produce the show that will be filmed on Hambletonian Day and air on CBS Sports Network (CBSSN) on Sunday, August 21, from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
“It’s more of a historical watch featuring Hambo and the 97th Oaks,” said Moira Fanning, director of publicity/chief operating officer of the Hambletonian Society.
With so much content flooding the tube these days, it was initially difficult to get a one-hour time block for the historic race. For example, at 6:35 p.m., halftime for the Hambletonian on Saturday, Aug. 6, CBSSN will feature 3ICE, live three-on-three ice hockey action.
“When planning started for Hambletonian, I was asked to do the cable camera again, and then we floated the idea of maybe COSA-TV coming down to do a show, because I believe at the time CBS didn’t have air time for Hambletonian,” said MacDonald. “Moira wanted to do more than just a simulcast show. A simulcast does serve a purpose for people with disabilities, but she wanted this one
the entertainment value of a network-style show like the one we do for COSA-TV.
“If you’re betting, the simulcast show is great because Dave [Brower] and Dave [Little] and anyone else who gives you what their choices are and all that disabled type stuff, but a lot of people just want to sit back and watch it. They want to have fun. Whether it’s two, three, four hours, whatever it is, they want something that’s entertaining, and that’s where COSA-TV fits the bill. We do it. We cover all types of events in Ontario, where we do it strictly for the entertainment value. Now yes, we do show odds and talk about handicaps, but we focus on the people in the paddock. We focus on the story. We will usually do one or two features per show 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 will still be shown live on Fox Sports 1 [FS1] as part of Saratoga Live presented by America’s Best Racing, but it would not be a stand-alone production.
“But then CBS came back and said, ‘We’ll give you a primetime hour next week if you want to do some kind of historical Hambletonian and recap of Hambo Oaks,'” Fanning said. “We all agreed that the Hambletonian deserved a little more focus than whatever America’s best races could or couldn’t squeeze in, and to see the 97th Hambo, you don’t have to go through the 16 races of Meadowlands to find it.”
For MacDonald, it’s a great honor to be producing the sport’s biggest race and to be a part of their biggest day yet again.
“It’s actually funny,” MacDonald said. “I was talking to my wife [Jaimi] about this the other day and I said maybe in 2018 – or something there – we went and worked on the Harness Racing Update to cover the Hambletonian. And every year since then, barring COVID, it seems like we’ve been more involved with Hambletonia. In 2020, Greg [Blanchard] and I went out and wrote a film on Luc Blais because they won in 2019 [with Forbidden Trade]. So we shot a film on Luc 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 it on TV here in Canada to being a little involved and now we’re really heavily involved.”
As he did for the 2021 Breeders Crown, MacDonald will broadcast live on Hambletonian Day as part of COSA-TV, which will be broadcast live from 3:00-5:15 p.m., then take a 45-minute break where they will feature the feed of the Big M simulcast show, before returning live at 5:55 pm with the show for CBSSN.
Throughout 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 add a bunch of extra cameras that don’t necessarily fit into simulcast, because with simulcast you want to see the race,” MacDonald said. “You want 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-up, tight shots that are more fun to watch than a simulcast-type show.”
For CBSSN’s hour-long retrospective, Greg Blanchard and The Meadowlands’ own Dave Brower will be at the table with Michael Carter in the paddock.
Meadowlands’ Jessica Otten, along with Gabe Prewitt, will once again do the Saratoga Live show, 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 11:30 a.m. pregame show.