Dale Earnhardt Jr. admits that he doesn’t know much about horse racing, but when it came to the 2023 Kentucky Derby, the NASCAR legend looked like a genius. The former driver-turned-broadcaster was the only member of NBC’s coverage team to pick Mage to win this year’s race.
Did Earnhardt have some sort of inside intel? Does he actually know more about horse racing than he claims? Or was it just a stroke of good fortune?
In the latest episode of the Dale Jr. Download, Earnhardt explained how he picked the winner. It’s quite a funny story, too.
Earnhardt said that he interviewed Gustavo Delgado Jr., the trainer for Mage, for the NBC broadcast. That put the ex-NASCAR star within close proximity of the (soon to be) winning horse.
“I’m standing down there right next to Victory Lane on the inside of the racetrack — this is the easiest part of the day. And I’ve got it in my mind, I’m gonna say Mage.
“I didn’t know Mage was No. 8 … I only picked Mage because that was the horse that I was closest to. I had seen Mage two days, and I thought, ‘I ain’t met any other Kentucky Derby runners, I’m gonna pull for Mage.'”
Earnhardt said he spent a lot of time “studying” and “cramming” for his assignment in Louisville. Not knowing much about the Kentucky Derby, he wanted to be as informed as possible for the broadcast.
But none of that played into his pick for the 149th running. Sometimes, all you need is a lucky hunch.
Millions tune in for NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage
Saturday’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby proved to be a massive success for NBC. It turned out to be the most-watched sports event for the network since the Super Bowl in February.
Coverage peaked at 16.6 million viewers as Mage crossed the finish line to win the race. In its entirety, the broadcast averaged 14.8 million viewers. NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, saw a 50% increase in viewership from last year’s race.
As impressive as the audience was for the Kentucky Derby, it still didn’t come anywhere close to Super Bowl LVII. A total of 115.1 million tuned in to see the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-35.
The Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest sporting events of the spring. This year’s success on the network marked the 14th consecutive year the Derby brought in more than 14.5 million viewers.