Human athletes have been following training routines at least since the earliest version of the Olympic games began in about 950 BC.  Racehorse training also has a long history, with the sport as we know it today having its origins in 18th century England.

Training of athletes has improved greatly over the years with refined scientific approaches, better nutrition, and sports medicine.  But digital technologies are now assisting like never before.

This introduction leads to the subject for today–a company called Zebra Technologies.  It offers RFID (radio frequency ID), for example, to assist companies to efficiently manage inventory and manufacturing.  One of the firm’s product lines is Zebra MotionWorks Sports Solutions, which is being used by Nascar, some women’s soccer teams, and the National Football League.

The company explains how RFID tags are currently deployed by 17 NFL teams:

  • “Tags on players track vital stats indoors and out to within inches.
  • A custom implementation of receivers and data hubs at the stadium house real-time analytics hardware and software.
  • Algorithms aggregate players’ statistics and display them in real time in custom applications.
  • Coaches, players, broadcast media, and fans use new data to improve the game experience.”

This process is similar to Trakus, the system installed at some horse racetracks.  Trakus describes its service as follows:

  • “More accurate and immediate than GPS or other positioning techniques, the Trakus system uses proprietary wireless communications to track tags fitted into each horse’s saddlecloth during live racing.
  • The durable, lightweight tag weighs 2.8 ounces (86 g) and it has the profile and size of a credit card or PCMCIA computer card, about 2 x 3 inches.
  • For racetracks, the size, format, and layout typical of North American racing, the Trakus system uses 6-10 trackside enclosures that host small antennas located at various points of convenience around the outermost track surface, e.g., camera turrets, light poles, grandstands, etc.
  • These trackside enclosures, computational server, and database instantaneously provide the precise location of each horse, average and peak speed, trip distance per segment, and relative distance from the leader throughout the race.”

Data from companies like Zebra MotionWorks Sports Solutions and Trakus will no doubt increasingly be used to enhance the training of racehorses.  Additionally, the data derived from RFID tracking are made-to-order for serious handicappers.

Training racehorses has definitely entered a new era.  While in-depth handicapping of racehorses has always been data intensive, RFID tracking provides even more empirical insights.

RFID technologies are not disruptive to the traditional methods of training and handicapping, but rather, are sustaining in that they can improve existing processes instead of replacing them.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business.