Netflix Documentary Series to Focus on Road to Kentucky Derby

Story by Bill Barber, courtesy of Racing Post

Horse racing is set to join Netflix’s stable of sports documentaries as the Racing Post understands the streaming service has commissioned a series based on this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

It is the latest attempt to emulate the success of the hugely popular Formula 1 documentary series “Drive To Survive,” which has been credited with boosting the popularity of that sport, especially in the U.S.

Filming on what is understood to be a four-part series on the “Race to the Kentucky Derby” is set to start next month and the casting process has begun, with the series looking to tell the stories behind the owners, trainers, breeders, and jockeys involved.

It is set to focus on five major trials for America’s premier Classic, the Louisiana Derby on March 25, the Curlin Florida Derby on April 1 and the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino, and Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 8, before culminating with the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

It is understood Netflix could also consider extending the series to include the other two legs of the Triple Crown — the Preakness and Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets — and the Breeders’ Cup.

The Racing Post first revealed in November 2021 that Box To Box Films, the media company behind “Drive To Survive,” was in talks about a horse racing version with Sky Sports Racing and Netflix.

Members of Netflix’s team based in Los Angeles and representatives from Box To Box and Sky Sports Racing met with racecourse executives, owners, trainers, and racing administrators from both the U.S. and Europe to discuss the project at that year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar.

It subsequently emerged that filming had taken place at the stables of Joseph O’Brien in Ireland and Francis-Henri Graffard in France and that other yards in Britain and the U.S. were to be involved, although at that stage Netflix had not yet agreed to commission a series.

While plans for the series that has been commissioned focus on the Kentucky Derby and U.S. racing, the Racing Post understands Sky Sports Racing remains involved, acting as a conduit between Netflix and Box To Box on one hand and racing on the other, especially given the broadcaster’s existing relationships with the racecourse groups involved and the Breeders’ Cup.

Sky Sports Racing said it could not comment when approached by the Racing Post, while Box To Box has been contacted for comment.

A fifth series of “Drive To Survive” is to be released Feb. 24, while Box To Box has also been involved in “Break Point,” the tennis series whose first episode was released on Netflix last month, and “Full Swing,” an eight-episode series based on golf’s PGA Tour due to start next week. Series based on last year’s men’s soccer World Cup in Qatar, the Tour de France, and rugby union’s Six Nations are also reportedly in the pipeline.

British racing has already been featured on a rival streaming service through Amazon Prime Video’s “Horsepower,” which followed the fortunes of jockey Oisin Murphy and trainer Andrew Balding from autumn 2020 to the summer of 2021. The 2018 Kentucky Derby also featured in an episode of a previous Netflix series “7 Days Out.”