Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 5:20 PM

Preakness ratings up 24% this year

by Frank Angst

With plenty of interest in Rachel Alexandra’s start against, the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (G1) delivered a 24% spike in ratings compared with last year.

According to Nielsen Ratings, 10.9-million people watched Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Rachel Alexandra hold off Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Mine That Bird in the second leg of the Triple Crown on May 16. The race portion of the broadcast secured a 6.8 rating and 16 share, the highest numbers since Smarty Jones’s ’04 Preakness victory drew a 7.7 rating and 19 share.

This year’s ratings are the second-best since the 1990 Preakness.

NBC Spokesman Adam Freifeld credited the battle of the sexes angle of this year’s race, along with a broad promotional effort before the Kentucky Derby. Before the Preakness, “The Today Show” ran segments on the Preakness and Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel appeared on “TheTonight Show with Jay Leno.”

The Preakness also picked up some mainstream sports coverage and commentary, much of which focused on the decision to start Rachel Alexandra along with Borel’s choice to ride the filly instead of Mine That Bird.

Fans also were interested in Mine That Bird. The Derby winner’s upset story landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

NBC said the 26.8-million people who watched the two races combined is the most since 1989.

Frank Angst is senior writer for THOROUGHBRED TIMES

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