Future In The Track: Innovations In The Horse Racing Industry

Horse racing is the oldest organized sport in America, and one of the oldest worldwide. Since the domestication of the horse thousands of years ago, people have always admired- and wanted to test- the speed of these magnificent creatures. “Whose horse can go faster over longer distances?” is a question that has been asked time and time again throughout history, and from those earliest speed duels also arose the question: “How can we make this better?”

Of course, a large part of improving the sport came from improving the horse itself. Specific physical traits and dispositions were selected and bred for. Over centuries, the Thoroughbred became a distinct breed, created for blinding speed with a dose of stamina. The bloodlines were meticulously recorded, and every modern Thoroughbred’s lineage traces back to the breed’s three founding fathers: the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Arabian.

Methods for handling the horses also evolved over time. Prior to the nineteenth century, animal cruelty was not a term that many were aware of, and the long term effects of things like the use of performance-enhancing drugs were not well understood. Trainers eventually learned methods that were both safer for the horses and ultimately more effective in producing results.

All of these changes have been helpful in moving the sport forward and keeping it relevant as times change. However, technology has also played an important role in maximizing the popularity, safety, and joy of the sport. Here are some ways that technological innovation in horse racing has improved, and what might be in development.

Gaming Innovations

Getting involved in the frenzy that involves the horse racing best bets by TwinSpires.com is one of the ways that horse racing stands out among other organized sports. Allowing spectators to place wagers upon the contestants fosters a feeling of belonging to the sport, which will ensure that they return to it time and time again. The thrill of winning money is also, of course, a huge draw, and the money that is lost on bets that don’t pan out ultimately benefits the racetrack, which can then turn around and use that money to create better experiences for everyone.

Gaming in America today bears little resemblance to the way it was carried out when our country was founded. At that time, bets were placed with private bookmakers, who set their own odds. This often led to corruption, as bookies who were faced with making large payouts would often cheat their customers, or simply abscond with the money. When parimutuel Gaming was introduced, which is a system that combines all bets of a particular type on a single race into a pool and uses that pool to create its own payouts, it was seen as a safer and more positive way to wager at the track.

When Gaming in a parimutuel system, however, the odds on horses fluctuate as more bets come in. This meant that the odds would need to be continually updated and displayed all over the track for potential bettors, which was usually done with chalkboards- hence why heavy favorites in a race are sometimes referred to as “chalk.” Electronic devices called “tote boards” were developed in the early part of the twentieth century which could quickly and accurately display odds.

Originally, nearly all legal horse racing wagers were placed directly at the track. Nowadays, however, many bets are placed from remote locations. One of the most welcome technological advances in horse racing is the creation of Gaming apps. These apps make it possible to safely and legally place wagers from anywhere in the world via your cell phone. The apps, such as Twinspires.com, often offer livestreaming of races from most tracks, and many also display race analyses from expert handicappers.

Communication Innovations

It used to be that in order to experience a horse race, you had no choice but to attend them live. Horse racing is far older than even the radio or silent film; in fact, one of the earliest known “motion pictures” was created in order to determine whether or not the Thoroughbred’s stride ever involves all four legs being in the air at the same time (it does). If you were unable to attend the races, your best bet was to hope that the race garnered enough attention to be written up in a newspaper at some point.

Radio bolstered the racing audience and brought events such as the Kentucky Derby into the homes of millions of Americans. Around the same time, newsreels began to be recorded which would feature video from important horse races. Even more people tuned in in the 1950s, when television became a popular and accessible tool of entertainment.

Nowadays, as mentioned above, many races are streamed over the internet. Apps such as YouTube make it possible for replays of races to be shown more or less instantly, and many amateur horse racing historians have uploaded old broadcasts and newsreels so that nostalgic fans can venture to yesteryear.

Safety Innovations

Gaming and viewing races with convenience is great, but safety innovations are by far the most important.

Although a horse’s riding equipment, called tack, may not look much different than it did a century ago in the eyes of a lay fan, it has undergone several significant advances in recent times. Modern materials are more lightweight than traditional leather, meaning that a horse can travel faster while under less strain. Stirrups, which are the jockey’s foothold in the saddle, are also now often designed to detach from the saddle in case of a fall, which keeps the jockey from becoming entangled in the horse’s legs.

Speaking of jockeys, their equipment has undergone transformation as well. Helmets have evolved to give increased protection while becoming more comfortable and aerodynamic. Riding boots are now crafted with breathable materials, making it less likely for jockeys to overheat mid-race.

Other new advancements are geared toward predicting- and therefore preventing- catastrophic injuries in horses. Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Park, two of the most popular and prestigious racetracks in the United States, have each unveiled a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner. These PET scans provide information on how a horse is standing up to the rigors of the sport at the cellular level, which can help trainers and veterinarians develop treatment plans for minor injuries and prevent them from becoming more problematic.

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