Horse cams may add new excitement

Published: Jul. 18, 2011 at 8:07 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2015 at 4:21 PM MST
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Technology is changing the way fans view sporting events.

New technology allowed NASCAR to amassed a huge following.

Football cameras now take the viewer on the field for a player's-eye view.

Now some of that new technology may help revive the sport of kings, horse racing.

"We've seen what it can do for other sports," says Kenleigh Hobby, a U of A student in the Horse Racing Industry Program. "Horse racing is still stuck in the binoculars age."

What Hobby is proposing is not new or even revolutionary. Cameras have been mounted on jockeys in limited venues to give the viewers an on-track view.

But Hobby is mounting cameras on all the jockeys, trainers and workers in the starting gate. It gives the viewer an opportunity to see the events from beginning to end, making them more of a participant rather than just a casual observer.

His new company, EquiSight, is marketing a camera system that records the race for playback, and has met with great success.

"The jockeys tell the trainers, 'Check out that last ride. Do you want to hire me for your next ride?' The jockeys have been an asset for us."

But breaking some of the traditions has been more daunting that first thought.

Unlike major league sports, which has a commissioner and uniform set of rules, horse racing is different.

He says every state has a different set of rules and there is no commissioner to makes decisions.

But he also says all the tradition in horse racing is hard to break through as well. New ideas are not always welcome.

But with horse racing falling on hard times, maybe some new ideas are just what it needs.

"We hope this is going to bring the sport back and attract younger viewers," he says.

He's working with engineers to develop what he calls a "smart helmet."

It will allow viewers to follow any jockey they choose.

"Live, while the race is going on. And they can switch horses during the race," he says.

That live technology is something that might get horse betters to put down their binoculars and pick up the telephone.

"Obviously, from cell phone apps to iPads, I think the technology can help revive the sport," he says.