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In-Play: New Frontiers for Horse Racing?

| By iGB Editorial Team
In-play betting on sports such as football and tennis has revolutionised the industry and according to SIS’ New Product Manager Alistair Clare, it could be about to make similar impact on the world of horse racing.

What is being done to bring in-running into horse racing?

In-running in horse racing is something the industry has been looking at for the best part of 10 years. A couple of solutions have made it to market, but they’ve struggled to get off the ground for various reasons, such as cost
and complexity of infrastructure. Legacy platforms have also made it difficult for suppliers to make use of new technologies to fulfil the requirements of the industry.

In the United States, there are solutions available that are currently active in a handful of the largest tracks, but with tags of upwards of $300,000 needed to implement, it’s prohibitive for 80% of the locations. SIS has now created a product that will come to market this year, which we believe overcomes those two challenges. Using GPS, we’re introducing transmitters into saddle-cloths which can track the position of a horse throughout a race.

It’s taken a lot of work to find a happy medium between providing an accurate, effective product while keeping the costs as low as possible. The infrastructure we’ve developed is simple and requires minimal set-up, which has been integral to keeping the price down.

With just a simple, mobile aerial needed to transmit on-course data to SIS’ central processing environment, we feel that this could open the door for real progress in inrunning capability.

How does in-play in horse racing differ from other sports?

On the technical side, the real problem in the past has been complexity. If you take tennis or football, these are sports played in a closed arena which makes collecting data, in relative terms, a simple task. Placing sensors on the four corners creates a three-dimensional data picture which can be intricately dissected in a number of ways.

In horse racing, we’re dealing with irregular tracks in an open environment, spread across square miles, instead of square metres. Instead of converting Lionel Messi into a data dot running around a pitch, we’re analysing half a ton of flesh and muscle in a crowded and bustling field of competing horses. It has taken complex algorithms to understand on a corner which horse is ahead, for example, and to compute its speed and trajectory.

All this means that, down the years, it has been harder to collect in-race data that can then be converted into in-play betting opportunities for operators. Currently, in-play betting does exist, but it’s on a small scale and often relies on traders watching particular races and updating prices and markets manually.

Our technology gives 5-10 data updates per second, per runner. Over the course of a race that can amount to tens of thousands of individual positional statistics which we can process instantaneously and convert into
incredibly accurate real-time prices.

What are the benefits for horse racing?

The benefits for the betting industry are obvious. But the introduction of in-running data could also lead to huge developments for the wider horse racing industry, in terms of analysis, training, and media coverage.

Take bookmakers first. Limited to ante-post betting, their shutters go down from the second the traps open. In that moment, for that event, their business is essentially closed. With in-play, there’s less dead time, meaning more opportunity for more revenue. To begin with, it might just be the first ten seconds of a race. Then, as the pricing structures move from semi to fully automated, they’ll become much more reactive, and bookmakers will be able to take bets throughout a race.

As the technology becomes more sophisticated, trainers will be able to see in-depth data on how their horse performs over the course of a race; its strengths, weaknesses, optimal distance and so on; will be seen in black and white on a page.

Other opportunities lie in development of new graphic and overlay services for TV production both in the studio and on-course. Media commentators will be able to pick apart the numbers in the way that they already do on football, cricket and rugby. Reading a race will become easier for laymen fans, the sport then becomes more accessible. There are going to be a whole host of opportunities opening up, bringing revenues and innovation to the sport.

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