It might be known as the sport of kings, but don’t be fooled by all the history and tradition. Horse racing is a sport that has always had at least half an eye on the latest technological innovations. Breeders, trainers, riders, race organizers, bookmakers, and broadcasters all have their own agendas. Technology is the common thread that allows them to do what they do better, faster, safer, or more profitably.
The basic concept of horse racing might not have changed in hundreds of years, but the way the horses and riders are trained and the methods used to stage a race meeting and bring it to the viewing public are dramatically different today compared with even 20 years ago. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Fitness and healing
Racehorses put pressure on their bodies just as much as human athletes, and are equally susceptible to strains, sprains, and more serious injuries or medical conditions. Of course, with an equine patient, there is the additional complication that he can’t tell his trainer if something feels amiss. 20 years ago, veterinarians used intuition that amounted to little more than guesswork to monitor breathing, while today, horses are routinely monitored with tiny endoscopes that are accurate without being overly intrusive.
They can also monitor the horse in real-time using wearable fitness technology. A smart saddle provides constant information on the horse’s gait, symmetry, and stride, acting as an early warning system for any sudden changes that could indicate an injury that might not otherwise be obvious until it becomes more serious.
Innovations in betting
Let’s be honest, the thing most of us associate with horse racing is placing a wager prior to a major event like the Grand National, the Kentucky Derby or the Melbourne Cup. 20 years ago, that meant standing in line for the bookie with betting slip in hand. Online platforms have consigned all that to the history books, and now we can place bets from anywhere. That doesn’t just mean the convenience of not leaving your armchair, though. It has opened up whole new international markets. For example, horse race betting India is a huge growth area thanks primarily to mobile platforms.
Online betting has brought new opportunities in the types of bets, too. The biggest game-changer here is the concept of live betting, where you can continue to place wagers after the race has started. That would have been a logistical impossibility 20 years ago.
The amount of data involved in horse racing has to be seen to be believed. Every single horse has pages and pages of information about its pedigree, its training, its performance on different surfaces and with different jockeys and so on.
We are still only at the dawn of the big data age, so the progress that has already been made in terms of online databases will doubtless seem like nothing in a few short years. Expect to see blockchain and AI technology taking a leading role in this area of horse racing technology over the years ahead.