Network ups coverage to two hours

NBC Sports is making its own Run for the Roses this year at the 133rd Kentucky Derby, upping its race coverage to two hours and, for the first time, adding red-carpet coverage.

Net’s special coverage, which kicks off Saturday at 1:30 p.m., will look at the parties, people and fashion surrounding the race. “Access Hollywood” reporter Shaun Robinson will assist NBC Sports.

Separately, “Access Hollywood” will be reporting from Louisville, Ky., all week.

Net’s extra push comes as the Kentucky Derby, and horse racing in general, is experiencing something of a surge in popularity.

“The First Saturday in May,” a docu that follows six trainers prepping for the 2006 race, preemed at this week’s Tribeca Film Festival. “Barbaro: A Nation’s Horse,” a docu about last year’s winner, focuses on the popular colt who broke his leg in the Preakness Stakes and then died in January. Doc is exec produced by NBC Sports honcho Dick Ebersol and preems in primetime on NBC Saturday.

Tom Hammond, Bob Costas and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will host this year’s race coverage, which begins at 2 p.m. The team also will include race-caller Tom Durkin, contributing analysts Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier, reporter Kenny Rice and on-track reporter and former jockey Donna Barton Brothers.

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