TECHNOLOGY DISRUPTED HORSE RACING, THEN SAVED IT

Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, recently wrote about “High Tech for Legacy Industries.”  He said:  “One of the amazing aspects of new technology is how it can be applied with awesome results to traditional ‘legacy’ industries.”

As examples, Forbes pointed to Sam Walton’s pioneering use of mainframe computers and software to manage inventories and supply chains; technology being applied to make agriculture more productive; and horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to vastly increase the output of oil and gas.

Without personal computers, tablets, smartphones, software, and the Internet, horse racing would have undoubtedly suffered more than it already has in the face of so many competitive forms of gambling and entertainment.  Absent the ability to bet remotely, a core of players would have gone to racetracks to wager, but not enough to sustain the sport for the long term.

While information technologies radically disrupted the horse racing enterprise by making it unnecessary for bettors to go to a racetrack, and thereby severely curtailed live attendance, the technologies saved horse racing as a business proposition.

With betting accounts made possible by readily available computer technology and software, people could wager without ever setting foot on a racetrack.  Moreover, the sport was able to expand to cities and states without brick-and-mortar racing facilities.

Additionally, bettors have Internet access to a wealth of past-performance data on websites like TwinSpires and Xpressbet and software programs to crunch the numbers.

(Technology also revolutionized the bloodstock side of the horse racing industry.  Various methods to select and buy yearlings that, for instance, rely on heart scans, bone scans, and stride and motion projections offer a far more scientific approach than in the past.  Historical backtesting of the effectiveness of various bloodline crosses can be done in a flash).

Thoroughbred horse racing is one of the most legacy industries imaginable, going back to the 1700s.  After nearly 300 years, the sport is still around in an age when the vast majority of people have no hands-on experience with horses.  Information-related technologies have kept it out of the dustbin of history.

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