The Belmont Stakes (Jun 9) lost a good measure of panache with the defection of KY Derby winner Street Sense, but TVG svp/GM David Nathanson refuses to worry about that which can’t be controlled—even if it likely means far lower wagering revenue from the Triple Crown’s 3rd leg. Nor does Nathanson lose sleep over a decision that was well within his control: the early-year dissolution of TVG’s contract with Churchill Downs. That severing of 10-year ties effectively prevented TVG from taking bets on the KY Derby and ultimately the Preakness, too, when Churchill forged a subsequent deal with Magna Ent and rival net HRTV (Cfax, 5/21). Even so, Nathanson is thinking long-term and likes where his horse is positioned. A Street Sense-Curlin showdown "would have been one of the greatest experiences in racing," admits Nathanson, but linear coverage of the Belmont undercard coupled with exclusive wagering rights for the day’s races "sets the stage for the best summer of racing we have to offer." The figurative whip to TVG’s horse will stem this year from the net’s Oct coverage of the Breeder’s Cup—the 4th most famous event in thoroughbred racing—which HRTV cannot match. Potentially debilitating mud remains on the track, however, as the Churchill-Magna-HRTV triumvirate is a powerful foe and TVG’s Belmont rights could soon evaporate with a decision by NY Gov Eliot Spitzer. Yet data from so far this year suggests TVG is still a betting favorite: the net has added nearly 10mln homes to its distribution list since walking away from Churchill and now reaches 50mln homes worldwide. In addition, all-sources handle (i.e., collective betting) declined on Derby day (4.1%) for the 1st time in 16 years, and also dipped on the Preakness (3.2%) card.

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