ELIZABETHTOWN, Lancaster County — The Breeders’ Cup is one of the world’s biggest and most important horse racing events. Taking place in Louisville, Kentucky at historic Churchill Downs, four local companies based in Lancaster County are using innovative technology to take viewers of this year’s broadcast under the “Twin Spires” right from their living room for the very first time.
Michael Sanchez of Greenfish Labs, who heads the team as they look to change how those view the sport of horse racing, said, "can definitely see that as something that can revolutionize horse racing and how you gamble on horse racing."
Over the course of two days, 14 races will take place with over $28 million in purses. It is more than just an exciting event, it is an experience. And with the help of a few 360 cameras, viewers will feel like they're sipping their drinks and making their wages right along the rail.
"Spectator sports are starting to realize like a lot of the clients we work with they need to connect to the digital generation," Sanchez added. "The generation that is using their cell phones, the generation that is looking for the newest cutting edge toy and virtual reality certainly falls into that equation," he said, as his eyes pop with excitement.
A successful calculation of that equation is the blending of traditional and digital methods to the broadcast, and the team is making sure they have no loose horse shoes.
"This is a broadcast that most people are familiar with except now we have introduced virtual reality," said Kevin Flounlacker, owner of Lake View Visual.
Flounlacker is responsible for bringing in those tradition elements of the broadcast.
"Where Lake View Visual comes in, we are going to handle that more of the traditional aspect of the broadcast working with camera talent on race day as they walk you through the broadcast giving you color commentary into what you are seeing through virtual reality," he continued.
The Breeders' Cup, steeped in tradition, is one of the most heavily bet on events in the world and a camera in the paddock area will allow you to see how a horse looks and is behaving before you make any wagers which according to Chuck Durham of Seisan, will empower those who take the risk.
"Our technology is grabbing live data that is only minutes to bring right to them about the horse and what information is going on," he said.
Information that includes more than just updated odds, the data from the artificial intelligence comes from the jockey data base that will display once a horse walks into a predetermined spot in the paddock area. Everything a bettor needs will then be at their disposal according to Sanchez, snapping his fingers.
"If they know there is technology out there that is going to give them the most up to date information right then and there, on the spot that is part of the inspiration for this," Sanchez said.
Inovāt, a digital agency, is also taking part in the technological advancements.
The team currently at Churchill Downs is going through their last minute preps and setup, but before they left they did take the time out to talk about "pressure."
"To take on a project of this magnitude and size, we are all excited we want to do an awesome job and make sure this is the first off many projects like this and more to come," said Flounlacker.
"You know its live so there is there really is no room for mistakes," as Sanchez grins. "You get the feeling this team not only isn't phased by the pressure they revel in it."
And you can too. All you need is your phone or computer to experience the never before broadcast. Though, the team does say, the viewing will be more immersive with a VR headset.
The Breeders' Cup races begin Friday, November 2 at 3:15 p.m.