JC / Railbird

Sports

Data Points

Marketing horse racing through its rich data is on the agenda for the 2013 UA-RTIP Symposium on Racing and Gaming:

New Ways to Look at Numbers
Sports fans are traditionally a group of people who have an insatiable hunger for facts, figures and statistics. Racing is a sport that is data rich but that attribute hasn’t been marketed. Panelists look at new data that could be presented to the racing audience, new ways to present the information we currently provide as well as how all of it can be used to attract new customers and increase the frequency of current players.

It’s also the subject of Thorotrends’ call to “release the data,” which I hope the Symposium data panelists will read before they arrive in Arizona, along with everything Superterrific has gathered on the issue of freeing racing data from paywalls and PDFs in her latest on Exacta-mundo.

Making data more available can only help attract more horseplayers. I’ve believed so for as long as I’ve been a racing fan, and have only been confirmed in that belief watching other sports move ahead with data, whether in creating APIs, building it into mobile apps, supporting hackathons, or holding events such as Major League Baseball’s Bases Coded, in which teams competed “to create the next great interactive media product for baseball fans.”

Note, I’m not advocating that past performances and other handicapping products should be free, or that Equibase should release all the data it collects via an API without restrictions, although I do think it should release the majority of its data and without a significant lag. (Just as full charts can be downloaded within a hour of a race, so should race data.)

If you’re wondering what free(er) data might look like in racing, consider the models that already exist, ranging from MLB’s minimalist Gameday API to ESPN’s robust developer center. Imagine if Equibase created something similar to ESPN, which opens its data feeds to users for non-commercial applications with some usage restrictions (such as limiting the number of API calls within a set period) — as Thorotrends writes, the majority of racing fans would continue to use data as they always have, but there would be a small group who would hack and experiment. It would make racing feel less stagnant and less mysterious, leading to more fans and more wagering.

Market the data, certainly, just free the data first.

10/14/13 Update: Yes! From Dana Byerly, here’s a real-world example of how a horse racing API could be used.

Painful Perfection

Brian Zipse asks why Blind Luck gets a pass that Rachel Alexandra didn’t:

I understand that Rachel was held to a higher standard, as the reigning Horse of the Year, but to what end? Have we become so expecting of perfection of our stars, that they simply can not live up to them. Do we not allow ourselves to fully enjoy the special ones, because of these expectations?

Simply, yes.

There’s something about repeated brilliance that inspires a fear of loss (a fear not specific to racing). It’s sentimental. We can’t stand to lose the magic.

This Is Her Town

Look up, Angelenos:

Zenyatta billboard

It’s official: Zenyatta is a crossover sports star.”

She really has ascended to another level, hasn’t she? It’s kind of fun. There’s a bit of an old time feel about Zenyatta’s super stardom, as well as trainer John Shirreffs’ reason for keeping the mare in California:

“We have to ship across the Rockies. It’s so much different out here than going up and down the East Coast.”

Well, maybe Zenyatta doesn’t like turbulence.

Instead of shipping east, she’ll go for a third consecutive win in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park next month. “Are they kidding?” Not at all. She’s a hometown girl; if you’re in the neighborhood, celebrate with a bobblehead.

Links for 2010-03-11

Baseball Advances

… in online video this opening day:

While TV networks are still figuring out the best way to put last night’s sitcom online, MLB is about to stream a season of more than 2,000 live games in hi-definition with more features than any cable box.

Beyond pausing and rewinding live games as you can with a DVR, subscribers can watch up to four games at a time with “mosaic” picture-in-picture; select different audio channels, including synced-up radio commentary streams; and follow their favorite players (or fantasy team) as they play their games, including live video peeks.

I’m so envious. And high-quality, feature-rich streaming online video isn’t even all baseball fans can look forward to this season. According to MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman, MLB’s super At Bat iPhone app, which I’ve gushed about before, could gain live video streams this summer. “We would love to do live games on the iPhone,” Bowman told Silicon Alley Insider. “I think people would watch. A whole game? Probably not. But ten minutes?”

What other live sporting event might people watch for ten minutes or five on a mobile device? Maybe … a horse race?

Building the infrastructure to deliver such products, though, seems beyond the industry at this point. MLBAM began in 2000 with $75 million pooled by 30 clubs; in 2007, it brought in $450 million. (Proving, at least in one case, it’s possible to make money from content online.) It would take an unprecedented level of cooperation and investment from within racing to pull off a similar (if smaller-scaled accomplishment). Considering the difficulty the various factions and entities have had coming together to do something truly important, I expect no ambitious tech initiatives launching in the near future.

(Thanks for the Insider link alert, Pull the Pocket.)