Selectional Timing With Horse Racing

By: markus

For the best part of four years punters in the UK have had a secret weapon giving them that vital 'edge' to make a profit from betting on horse racing. Yet for the most part, hardly anyone has taken advantage. What am I talking about? Sectional timing.

In a nutshell, the technology exists to show the precise position and speed of a horse at any point in a given race. We can accurately depict the very nature of every race as it unfolds. T
British punters can expect a revolution in the analysis of racing, following the news that a hi-tech radio-tracking system for horses will be introduced to the country's racetracks by the end of 2008.

The new technology, which can pinpoint a runner's position to within 20cm, four times a second, will also allow races to be broadcast in a "virtual" format, both over the internet and to the latest 3G mobile phones.?

The radio-tracking system has been developed by Generics Group, a technology company based in Cambridge, and will be marketed as a joint venture with TurfTrax which already produces detailed going reports for the major tracks. The so-called Super 12 courses - including Ascot, Cheltenham, Aintree, Newmarket and Epsom - are likely to be the first to benefit from the new technology.?

When it is introduced, the radio-tracking system will fill what is currently a void in the study of racing form.?

While the form book offers winning distances, brief comments in running, a race-time and many other details, there is little empirical analysis of the way in which a race unfolds.?

The Generics system will offer a three-dimensional view of a race, with details of precisely where every runner was at every stage, and exactly how fast it was going at the time.?

It will also do so in a relatively simple way, using light weight radio transponders inserted into saddlebags, sending signals to small, mobile masts around the course.?

"This technology fits nicely into horseracing," Andy Rhodes, who runs Generics' wireless innovation group, said yesterday. "It's low-cost and easily deployed, you can turn up, set it up, cover the races, take it down and move on.?

"All the receivers are wireless and run off batteries, and can also easily work around obstacles, from the hill in the middle of the track at Warwick, to temporary grandstands."?

The amount of information that the Generics technology could yield is immense. How fast was the early pace? How much ground did Unlucky Lad lose when he was snatched up two out? And how much ground and momentum did he concede by drifting across to the stands' rail shortly afterwards??

Questions such as these, and many more, will soon have a precise answer with a firm scientific basis.?

"The difference when you compare this with sectional timing, like that at Newmarket, is that it works easily at every course, and you get readings every quarter of a second, not once a furlong," Rhodes says.?

"You also get a picture of what's happening across the course, not just along the length of it. If a horse appears to drop back between two furlong markers, has it pulled up a little, or just moved across the course? You can also measure the true distance run by a horse, rather than just the linear distance, and with that you can also measure its speed at every point in the race."?

The Generics data will clearly be highly valuable, which is why the two companies have already ploughed ?1m into the project. It is the exploitation of this in-race data - via sale to broadcasters, racing publications and individual punters - which the companies will seek to exploit first, although applications on the net and via mobile phones will also be explored.?

"In a sense," Rhodes says, "there is very little data, just an 'x' and a 'y' reading and a time. This means that the information will lend itself to transmissions over the net and on mobiles, making racing much more interactive."?

An online database would allow form students to watch a race in a high-quality, "virtual" format a dozen times from every possible angle, while live webcasts using the technology could turn punters into television directors. If you can't pick out your horse, click a button, and the computer will helpfully paint it yellow. You could do the same to keep tabs on the favourite, or watch a jockey's-eye view of the closing stages.?

Some may see such ideas as punting for the video-game generation, but the powers of race-analysis that should soon be at punters' fingertips are something that every clever backer will appreciate.?

As the technology improves, it could also offer invaluable assistance to stewards' enquiries and investigations into alleged non-triers. Rhodes says: "You can use [the data] to do almost anything. It will allow punters to use more intelligence in their betting and, hopefully, will mean they are more successful."?

And so the question remains - with this relatively simple technology ready and available, and with the additional form data it can obviously provide, why is it this 'revolution' has kept such a low profile?

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