How Technology Has Transformed the Horse Race

Horse racing has a long and complex history, from early competitions between chariots to the present-day multibillion dollar industry that draws in millions of fans around the world. While it has kept many of its traditions and rules over centuries, technological advancements have transformed the sport with improved safety measures both on and off the racetrack.

Among them are thermal imaging cameras that can detect overheating, MRI scanners that reveal the hidden health of horses, endoscopes and 3D printers that produce casts and splints for injured animals. The racing industry has also changed with the introduction of new breeds that are more resilient and easier to train and handle. But the equine athletes themselves remain subject to excessive physical stress and the misuse of drugs, which are becoming increasingly common in the sport and often mask injuries that could not be corrected if they were revealed.

In the days before the race, Santa Anita was flooded with veterinarians and expensive imaging equipment, as managers and track staff scrambled to keep the horses healthy and happy. A team of veterinarians scanned each animal before the race with a variety of tools, looking for preexisting conditions and identifying any banned substances. During morning workouts, vets looked at the horses’ feet, which can be delicate because they are built for speed over short distances.

The morning of the race, all the horses had been injected with Lasix, a diuretic marked on their racing forms with a bold “L.” The drug is given to prevent pulmonary bleeding, which hard running can cause in some animals. It is a necessary precaution, because it’s not uncommon for Thoroughbreds to unload epic amounts of urine in the course of a race–twenty or thirty pounds worth.

At the starting gate, Mongolian Groom balked–a sign that he might be frightened or angry. Bettors like to look at a horse’s coat in the walking ring to see if it is bright and shiny, rippling with sweat and muscled excitement. If a horse’s coat is dark and dull, it’s probably not ready to run.

A handicap race is a kind of betting game in which the weights that horses carry during the race are adjusted based on their age, sex, and other factors such as birthplace or previous performance. This system repudiates the classic concept that the best horse wins, and instead tries to make races as equal as possible. In addition to raceday handicaps, there are a number of other ways that a horse’s chances of winning can be influenced by its owners and trainers. During the election season, when news media focus on unusual polls or speculation about who will win the next presidential election–a practice known as horse race reporting–voters and candidates suffer, a growing body of research suggests. In particular, this type of coverage may shortchange third-party candidates by ignoring policy issues. The most significant changes may be the arrival of probabilistic forecasting, a technique that uses data to predict the outcome of elections.