Tracking systems are incredibly popular in human and animal racing. The latest technology used is increasingly being seen at courses throughout the country and it is an indication of how horse racing is changing through the greater use of new technology.
The Cambridgeshire meeting at Newmarket earlier this year was just the first of some key autumn meets which made use of a revolutionary new tracking system.
This is a service that gives an accurate location for every horse during, not only a race but any event or training programme. Through its use at courses including Newmarket, but also Cheltenham and York, its ability to provide details of where exactly a horse is, even what it is doing is just part of the story.
There are tracking systems which act as a glorified GPS, just plotting the location of a horse. This is useful, but race horse owners want more and are attracted to systems providing a wealth of data and information about that horse and its performance through a particular season or indeed career.
So, a horse’s form going into a race can be predicted as never before, which naturally has an effect on betting and how horses are backed.
The technology is now also available in app form for smartphones and tablets, with a notable one from TurfTrax seeing 165,000 downloads in the week it was launched before this year’s Grand Nationalin April. It has also been used during the flat racing season and with many race courses preparing now for the popular Boxing Day meets, many will no doubt be using the technology in that context as we approach the Christmas season.
The tracking system works through radio frequency using proprietary patented technology with receivers located around a particular race course, which are all linked to a local area network which in turn goes to a central processing server.
The horses are then linked to this system by way of small tags which can be placed into the number cloth attached to horses which will, when activated, send encrypted signals to the network of receivers with the data then going back to the central processing server.
The server then uses algorithms which can detect where the tag’s signal is coming from and a surveyed model of the course then uses all the information processed. This then provides the user with detailed information on the particular horse they are interested in during a race including its current speed, its average speed, the distance remaining in the race as well as many other details.
The fact that many race goers are not familiar with the new technology is down to the fact it is unobtrusive on the course itself. The receivers can be placed in areas of the grandstand unseen by most on the course.
There are other features which make it an added attraction to those race organisers. Firstly, the statistics produced on each individual horse can be all added onto a summary chart giving all the information required for a specific race, with this possibly printed out and distributed to race goers and used to publicise a race in the media.
As already stated, the system is not solely used for races as it can also analyse training sessions, again giving more detailed and day to day information on a horse, its condition and how it is performing in the build up to a big race.
Naturally, this information can be used in comparison with other horses in a race, to accurately analyse which horses go into the race in the best condition and the best form.
Also, the screen graphics available with the system can add to the broadcast experience for spectators at the course, again providing greater information than simply the result. For instance, it can show the race from different positions, even giving the view from each individual jockey and can show graphics in 3D.
So, though the race course may look little changed from 10, 20 years ago, behind the scenes new technology is changing the way it works.