ALTHOUGH horse racing is widely recognised as one of the world's oldest and most traditional sports, there's no doubt that technology has played a significant part in increasing the enjoyment of this venerable pastime.
As a result, Supreme Ventures and Entertainment Limited (SVREL), the local promoter of horse racing, is planning to adopt a digital timing system as part of its efforts to improve the racing product and make it more marketable on the international stage.
SVREL Executive Chairman Solomon Sharpe did not state the cost of implementing the system nor the projected revenue, but said a roll-out is expected this month.
"Whilst many tracks still use a manual timing system, we felt that the time was right so we engaged with our digital timing provider out of the United Kingdom. They'll be coming in shortly to make their final measurements and survey of the track, and the elements for the system is already in Jamaica," Sharpe told the Jamaica Observer.
"So once they come in they will do their final detailed work on the track, and we will have this implemented for some time in October. So, you know, it just helps with the integrity of the product," he said.
Sharpe said that while the system provides numerous benefits, the supplier has also built various programmes and algorithms.
Sharpe highlighted that one of the key advantages of the digital timing system is that it will eventually be able to predict the probable finish of a horse based on its racing history and speed rating.
"So let's say horse number two — based on his regular pattern, the speed that he is going, the distance of the race, his positioning and so forth — the system might give a likely result that the horse might have a 70 per cent chance of winning at different parts of the track.
"What that does is opens up the gaming opportunities for us to expand our product. This is very popular now in the UK, and recently at Royal Ascot there was a video that showed a horse that broke to the back, and at one point he had a 20 per cent chance of winning.
"And then you saw, literally, in the video when they match back the video to what the digital timing system [had predicted]: It was saying where his [the horse's] probability grew upwards of him winning, and then we literally saw on the video where the space opened up for him [the horse] and the horse burst through the pack and ended up with a win. So this brings a lot more dynamics to our product here — and you've seen that technology is the future of horse racing," the chairman explained.
Sharpe stated that, in addition to the quarterly splits being displayed on the screen during races, the number on the horse's saddle cloth and the horse's position during the race will also be displayed on the screen with the digital timing system.
"Digital enables us to put the horse's number on the screen, similar to what you see in North America. We are not worried now at the end where [there are] some men sitting in a room clicking their clocks and talking about point of call. And all these point of calls, this information will be uploaded digitally to the Track and Pool, Equibase, and to any distribution channel that we have," Sharpe said.
"So you have to have technology if you are to match international standards. Punters at home and abroad will be able to rate their respective horses differently from past performances and so forth, so this is a step in the direction of meeting international standards.
"When we were in Arizona we found some men in Central America that are already working on a database platform, unbeknownst to us, which also involved our product. So they have taken our data, punched it into a programme they have so they can now send it back to us, or whoever is desirous of our data. We are in the era of digital and digital is going to take us [where we want to go]," Sharpe further stated.