Nick Luck is no stranger to horse racing fans. The quick-witted Englishman is a fixture on British and American horse racing telecasts where he has been a part of the biggest events in the sport from Royal Ascot to the Breeders' Cup. Luck, who regularly delights viewers with his unique blend of knowledge, personality, and sense of humor, will make his debut on Thursday as the host of the Eclipse Awards.
Bourbon & Barns caught up with Luck to talk about his incredible career, the Eclipse Awards and what to expect in horse racing in 2018.
You can watch the Eclipse Awards live on TVG on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
Bourbon & Barns: First, tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did you get interested in horse racing?
Nick Luck: I was actually born in Ascot, in the hospital right next to the racecourse. So you could say it was all inevitable! I grew up about half an hour away in Hampshire where we were always surrounded by horses and ponies. My parents had steeplechasers in training with the legendary late Josh Gifford, and I really got into it following his horses from a very young age. In my teens, I started to latch onto all forms of the game, and would get the Racing Post or Sporting Life every day when I was away at boarding school.
B&B: Did you always plan to go into broadcasting? Did you know you wanted to be involved in horse racing broadcasting, specifically?
NL: I didn’t really have the sort of strategic career plan that seems to be the norm nowadays. I took a Masters in French Literature at London University, so it wasn’t exactly an obvious transition! That said, I was always happiest on stage & was obsessed with racing, so my eventual career probably didn’t surprise many of my friends or family. Prior to University, I spent a year writing for Joe Pagan at Kentucky Equine Research, where the US connection really began.
B&B: As a broadcaster, you have been a part of the biggest events in British and American racing. Do you have any favorite moments, races or events you have witnessed?
NL: So many. From a broadcast point of view, hosting the 2015 Grand National for Channel Four was very special. The production team did an extraordinary job, which was duly recognized. To work on Frankel’s win in the Juddmonte International 2012 at York was a real privilege. Sir Henry Cecil was very frail, but remained his effortlessly charismatic self as he witnessed what I thought was the defining moment of the horse’s career. I’ll never see a better racehorse. In the US, the 2010 Classic stands out: although Zenyatta was beaten, she was paradoxically her most heroic in her only defeat. I’ve never known such a palpable emotional connection between an animal and the crowd. On the TV front, that day had it all.
B&B: This year, you were part of the team that brought the unique pageantry and tradition of Royal Ascot to American television for the first time. How would describe Royal Ascot and your experiences there?
NL: For obvious reasons, Ascot has a special place in my heart. I was born there and went to school opposite the ten furlong start from age 7 - 13. My late Godmother used to take me racing there as a child, and my mother has a picture in her downstairs cloakroom of my parents with Bing Crosby at Royal Ascot in the early 70s! The event has always been a huge social occasion, but the quality of the sport has increased tenfold in the last decade, and the International interest has added massively to that. It is truly a heritage event, and has cleverly modernized its outlook whilst retaining the pageantry that makes it special. I was staggered and delighted by the reaction from NBCSN viewers, and can’t wait to front an expanded production this year.
B&B: There are many stars in racing at the moment, but none are bigger than Winx (from Australia) and Enable (from England). With Winx possibly racing in Europe for the first time this year, do you think we’ll see Winx and Enable face each other? Any predictions on the outcome if they were to meet?
NL: I truly hope so. If not at Ascot, perhaps it will be at York in the Juddmonte International. I think Winx is marginally better going Left Handed and she’s getting on a bit, so she’ll need as much as possible in her favour. I’d say home advantage should give it to Enable at a strongly run 10 furlongs. Cracksman might be too good for either of them, however!
B&B: Last year, Arrogate was on a historic roll when he followed up some big 2016 wins with victories in the Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup. What did you think of Arrogate’s string of wins that won him more than $17 million?
NL: A superb horse whose legacy was probably tarnished by the three Del Mar disappointments. It shouldn’t be, because what he achieved on the clock in Saratoga through to running down Gun Runner in Dubai was extraordinary. That much effort at the top level for an inexperienced horse concertinaed into five months would probably take its toll on any horse.
B&B: This will be your first time hosting the Eclipse Awards. Are you excited? What can we expect at this year’s awards?
NL: I’m very honoured, for sure, and just hope it’s not too quirky a selection for the audience. Hopefully we can keep it bright and breezy, whilst really celebrating some great horses and significant human endeavor.
B&B: What are you looking forward to on the racing calendar this year? Any predictions for the Pegasus World Cup?
NL: Any two of Winx, Enable and Cracksman in the same race, and the year is complete. The Pegasus may not have Arrogate or Chrome, but Gun Runner is a proper champion facing a really deep field. It would be great to see him go out on a high, but he’s got plenty on his plate. I think Collected & Sharp Azteca can run very well in particular. I dare not dream about Toast of New York, but the craziest victory in Horseracing history is not that far fetched.