As the 2018 Breeders’ Cup swings around next week, and photographic and video evidence of the entered runners populates social media, print and broadcast reports, take note of one of the immeasurable benefits of a Cup initiative from years ago. When a BC horse is out working in the morning at Churchill, all stakeholders can easily identify the horses thanks to a branded saddle towel - with the race, horse name and a number for additional identification if other details are obscured.
Now, consider the possibilities of how North American racing can extend this benefit to the day-to-day sport. While the execution might not be the same, is there a solution that could yield an engaging morning identification system, far beyond what currently exists?
What if ordinary racing fans could more easily identify horses on their local circuit each morning? What if clockers didn’t have to spend weeks learning the horses on a circuit in order to accomplish their challenging task?
143 horses recorded timed works at Santa Anita Park on the morning of October 21. Of course, many more than that got out and stretched their legs in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains, but those appearances still go unrecorded. 27 of the works were filmed and released by XBTV.
For most, the record of such a work is almost always limited to just a line item attached to a past performance, but the growing XBTV enterprise, an outlet of Xpressbet, provides more vision of trackwork than any entity in North American racing.
Here is how XBTV describes this endeavor, from their own website:
"Replays have become a key piece to evaluating performance in the afternoon for handicappers. For the first time, horseplayers can now gauge how well a horse is doing in the mornings in the same manner. The Form can only tell you how fast a horse works, but never how he or she looks doing it. XBTV will bring you more recorded workouts than anyone in the industry. Whether it is an under-the-radar first-time starter or a stakes horse, catch all the morning action the day it happens."
Image of XBTV workouts at XBTV.com
XBTV's service is incredibly valuable, even if illuminating just a portion of the morning works.
The infrastructure required to capture daily trackwork is substantial, but racing does itself no favors. Outside of events like the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and the Breeders' Cup, horses gallop freely across North American racetracks without being easily identifiable to the public. Unless you are a regular visitor to morning works with a near photographic memory, and outside of a trainer using a basic saddle pad identifying the stable to which the horse belongs, there are few other tips to “easily” identify a horse.
Thousands of people watch morning works at Saratoga, enjoying breakfast in the bucolic setting, but few people will walk away from the idyllic conditions with a memory of several key horses they saw, or pictures that assuredly identify the horses they saw. Santa Anita’s “Clocker’s Corner” is a great spot to take in morning works, but again, identifying exact horses is near impossible.
For the next ten days, we hope you enjoy the coverage of the hundreds of horses that will appear at Churchill Downs and be easily identifiable to the public. There are options to make this pursuit easier for the industry on a regular basis. The result would be engaging the fan base on a far more regular basis. Watching morning works can be a magical experience. Knowing which horse is which – that’s informative and engaging, and makes the magic all the more real.
We will offer some additional thoughts on this topic in the coming weeks and welcome your suggestions as well.
All photos from Alex Evers.