Curtis MacDonald’s Cujo Entertainment is producing one
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 period this year, there was a real possibility that the streak would end, but the show will go on.
Curtis MacDonald’s Cujo Entertainment will produce the show, which will be filmed on Hambletoni Day and air on CBS Sports Network (CBSSN) on Sunday, August 21, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“It’s more of a historic hour involving the 97th Hambo and 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 find a prime time slot for the historic match. For example, at 6:35 p.m., out of time for the Hambletonian on Saturday, August 6, CBSSN will air 3ICE, live three-on-three professional ice hockey action.
“When planning for the Hambletonian started, they asked me to redo the cable camera, and then we discussed the idea of maybe COSA-TV coming down to do a show because I don’t think CBS had air time for the Hambletonian at the time,” said MacDonald. “Moira wanted to do more than just a simulcast. A simulcast does serve a purpose for the disabled, but he wanted it
entertainment value of a network style show like what we do for COSA-TV.
“If you bet simulcast is great because Dave [Brower] and Dave [Little] and whoever else gives you what their options are and all kinds of disabilities, 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 little niche. That’s what we’re doing. We cover all kinds of events in Ontario, where we do it strictly for entertainment value. Now yes, we show the odds and talk about handicaps, but we focus on the people in the paddock. We focus on stories. We’ll 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 would 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’re going to give you a primetime hour next week if you want to do a sort of Hambletonian story and recap Hambo Oaks,'” Fanning said. “We all agreed that the Hambletonian deserved a little more focus than whatever America’s Greatest Horse Race could or couldn’t cram in, and to look at the 97th Hambo, you don’t have to page through 16 Meadowlands races to find it.’
For MacDonald, it’s a great honor to produce the sport’s biggest game and to be a part of their biggest day yet again.
“It’s really funny,” MacDonald said. “I was talking to my wife [Jaimi] so the other day and I said probably 2018 – or something around there – we went and worked on the Harness Racing Update to cover the Hambletonian. And every year since then, minus COVID, we seem to have gotten more involved with the Hambletonian. In 2020, Grig [Blanchard] and I went out and shot a film on Luc Blais, because they won in 2019 [with Forbidden Trade]. So we filmed 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 having a little bit of involvement and now we’re really in a big way.”
Just as he did for the 2021 Breeders Crown, MacDonald will televise Hambletonian Day live as part of COSA-TV, which will air live from 3:00 to 5:15 p.m. and will then take a 45-minute break where they will show the Big M simulcast feed, before returning live at 5:55 p.m. with the show for CBSSN.
Throughout the COSA-TV show, 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 the simulcast, because with simulcast you want to see the game,” MacDonald said. “You want to see where the horses are at all times because you have 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.”
For CBSSN’s hour-long retrospective, Meadowlands’ Greg Blanchard and Dave Brower will be in the office with Michael Carter in the paddock.
Meadowlands’ Jessica Otten, along with Gabe Prewitt, will once again host the Saratoga Live show, which will air on Fox Sports 2 from 12:30-5 p.m. and on FS1 and SNY from 6-7 p.m.
As always, The Meadowlands simulcast show, hosted by Brower and co-hosted by Little, will be live on Facebook and YouTube beginning with the 11:30 a.m. pregame show.