From 1998 to 2002, Krista Voda was the host for WLEX-TV’s all-day coverage of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby programming, and she worked the spring and fall meets at Keeneland.
Voda also covered NCAA basketball tournaments, college bowl games, the NFL and the World Series playoffs.
Although she covered high-profile sports events while in Lexington, Voda said her favorite moments might surprise some viewers: “I loved when I would cover the high school athletes. ... Our coverage on Friday nights was just as exhilarating.”
Fast forward to 2017, and Voda is covering the run-up to the Kentucky Derby — for NBC Sports. Come April 8, she will make her NBC Sports Group horse racing debut, covering the Wood Memorial at Ozone Park, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Santa Anita Derby.
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Voda also will be the host of NBC Sports Network’s Kentucky Derby week coverage, beginning with the Kentucky Derby Access telecast on May 4 and leading up to the Kentucky Derby Prep show on May 6.
Voda had been co-anchor of “Totally NASCAR” on Fox Sports Net and co-host of “NASCAR Nation” when it aired on Speed Channel. She joined NBC Sports in 2015 and is in her 16th season working on NASCAR. She has been host of the network’s NASCAR Spring Cup and XFINITY series coverage.
joined NBC Sports in 2015 and is in her 16th season working on NASCAR.
Returning to cover horse racing, Voda employs the same methodical approach she gave to covering motor sports: research, research, research.
“I’ve got papers everywhere,” Voda said. “I have a lot on file digitally, but I also have index cards with blue highlighter, yellow highlighter and sticky notes.”
In a recent telephone interview, Voda said she also will lean on her on-air colleagues, including Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, horse racing analyst Randy Moss, and reporters Donna Brothers and Laffit Pincay III (son of jockey Laffit Pincay Jr.).
The emphasis in covering sports with dedicated and knowledgeable followings is to “bring in new fans and make it appealing without alienating current fans,” she said.
That’s often the case with the Kentucky Derby, Voda said: “You’ll have people watching the Kentucky Derby that will not watch a race the rest of the year.”
Having spent seasons running up and down pit road for NASCAR, Voda said that nothing about the Derby — even a sloppy track — deters her.
“It’s glamorous in its setup, but that doesn’t mean you’re not sitting in the rain and wind come race time,” Voda said.
Voda, born and raised in Clinton, Iowa, lettered in volleyball, basketball and track at the University of Northern Iowa. Now 42, she’s married to Phillip Kelley, who works in production for sports television. The couple has a 3 1/2 year-old daughter, Emersyn.