When Lindsay Schanzer takes the helm of the NBC Sports broadcast for the 153rd Belmont Stakes Saturday, she’ll be continuing a Triple Crown season that’s historic, not only for her personally, but for women in televised sports.
With the Preakness last month, Schanzer, 32, became the first woman to produce a Triple Crown race live and on site, and it was no easy task – and not just for the regular reasons. The Sunday before the race, news had come down that the Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, tested positive for a banned substance. The Belmont should have fewer surprises – Medina Spirit isn't running and trainer Bob Baffert was temporarily suspended from Churchill Downs this week – but it doesn’t make it less of a frenzied undertaking.
"It's been really interesting," she said. "It's been difficult but it's been really eye-opening and an incredible experience to see all the people that I work with really kick into gear and go out and get that information . . . (And now) we're just glad to be back. I'm really excited to be here and to close out this Triple Crown season. We've got some more Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit news, which we'll address again, but at the end of the day, we're just really excited to have the Belmont and what should be an incredible race. The field is awesome, so we're really looking forward to it."
NBC Sports will televise five races and have more than four hours of coverage, though the casual fans only generally care about the Belmont. Which means it’s a delicate balance of keeping people entertained, engaged, informed, and, pivotally, tuned in. In the midst of it all, Schanzer will be directing the 125 workers on site.
"We do our best to tell the stories that go with the race and introduce people who are watching to the human connection since the horses can’t talk for themselves," Schanzer said. "We try to give people a reason to root and introduce them to the jockeys, the trainers, the owners that are associated with the horses, and by the time the big race comes around, we hope we’ve given everyone something to latch onto."
Schanzer got her start as a stage manager at NBC Sports, moved on to intern at YES Network, and then returned to NBC as a production manager. She’s been part of Emmy-winning teams, and has been part of production crews for the Olympics and Kentucky Derby. She technically became the first woman to produce a Triple Crown race last year, with the Preakness, but that was off-site due to COVID-19.
She’s grateful to break the barrier, though she doesn’t overly concern herself with it.
"I’d be lying if I said" it wasn’t important to her, Schanzer said. "It’s not something I try to think about. At the end of the day, I do the job that I’ve been assigned to do and hopefully, do it well. But if it’s something that can give other women who want to be in the industry something to look up to or help them on their way, I’m really honored to be in this position."