WRITERS UP - Trakus

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					TDN P AROUND THE WORLD • 10/27/06 • PAGE 12 of 13

                                                             speed at which he is traveling, and the distance of

                   WRITERS UP
                                                             ground he is covering. Trakus can then, in real time,
                                                             convert the data in a number or ways, such as creating
                                                             a small colored tile, or Achicklet,@ to represent each
                                                             runner (the colors correspond with the horse=s
RIGHT ON ‘TRAK’                       by Lucas Marquardt     saddletowel--one is red, two is white, etc). On a split
                                                             screen, in the case of Woodbine and TVG=s Keeneland
   On Oct. 19 at Keeneland, temperatures hung around
                                                             signal, the computer-generated chicklets are then
50 degrees as low, grey clouds and a steady rain made
                                                             shown on a virtual race course, allowing fans to locate
for a dreary day of racing. Fans that braved the rain on
                                                                                             exactly where their horses
Keeneland=s apron had it
                                                                                             are on the track (see box
only slightly worse than
                                                                                             1).
those in OTBs around the
                                                                                                A crush of horses vying
country or the folks watch-
                                                                                             five wide for the early
ing at home on TVG, with
                                                                                             lead? A quick glance up at
eyes straining to make out
                                                                                             the Trakus chicklets will
which horse was which
                                                                                             show you if yours is the
through the windswept rain
                                                                                             horse caught in the thick
and flying mud. While those
                                                                                             of the suicidal pace. Foggy
watching at the OTBs were
                                                                                             day at the track, similar to
stuck with the typical si-
                                                                                             how it was at Keeneland
mulcast view, a wide-angle
                                                                                             the other day, and you
pan shot of...windswept
                                                                                             can=t tell if it=s the seven
rain and flying mud...those
                                                                                             or the one laying in third?
on track and tuned in to
                                                                                             The easy-to-see chicklets
TVG had another option:
                                                                                             will show you which horse
Trakus.
                                                                                             is getting that ideal trip.
   It was just over a month
                                                                                                When Trakus first began
ago that Trakus was launched at Woodbine, and the
                                                             in 1998, it was aimed not at horse racing but at major
innovative system, which tracks horses in real time
                                                             league sports. After a meeting with National Hockey
using digital technology and represents them in a
                                                             League commissioner Gary Bettman, Trakus began
graphic format on a television screen, has thus far been
                                                             working Boston Bruins home games in 2001, using its
a success. Since being introduced at Canadian oval
                                                                                              technology to track
Sept. 13, the Trakus system
                                                                                              things like player speed
has also been adopted by
                                                                                              and the impact of hits.
Keeneland and, according to
                                                                                              Halted by the NHL=s lock-
officials at both tracks, re-
                                                                                              out in 2004, Trakus soon
sponse from race fans has
                                                                                              turned its attention to
been decidedly positive.
                                                                                              horse racing and the $20
   AIt=s been very well re-
                                                                                              billion wagered on the
ceived,@ said Keeneland
                                                                                              sport each year in North
President Nick Nicholson.
                                                                                              America.
AWe expected our younger,
                                                                                                 Trakus president and
more casual fans--our more
                                                                                              CEO Bob McCarthy un-
technologically proficient
                                                                                              veiled the system at last
fans--would like it, but I
                                                                                              year=s University of Ari-
think our most pleasant sur-
                                                                                              zona Symposium on Rac-
prise has been the way it=s
                                                                                              ing and Gaming, and
been so well received by
                                                                                              track officials from across
long-time racing fans and our older fans, who say they
                                                             North America were immediately impressed, according
can more clearly see where their horse is.@
                                                             to McCarthy.
   By now, you=ve probably seen Trakus on TVG, but if
                                                                AEverybody=s looking for ways to differentiate their
you=re unfamiliar with it, here=s a brief overview of how
                                                             signal, and this was one of the more innovative ways
it works. A small radio transmitter (about the size of a
                                                             that they could do that,@ said McCarthy, whose resume
credit card) on the saddletowel of each runner sends a
                                                             includes a tenure at Raytheon, where he worked on
signal to antennas located around the track. That signal
                                                             advanced missile & radar systems. AFrom the track
carries an array of information, including a horse=s exact
                                                             operators perspective, there was a ton of interest from
location, in relation to other horses and to the rail, the
                                                             the very first conceptual presentation of the product.@
TDN P AROUND THE WORLD • 10/27/06 • PAGE 13 of 13

   Canada=s Woodbine became the first track to inte-             Keeneland has also designated certain televisions at
grate Trakus into its simulcast signal, unrolling the         the track to the Trakus channel, called Trakus TV,
system last month. Woodbine President David Willmot           which provides a view of a race similar to Woodbine=s,
said the track, which this year also became one of the        with a split screen showing the live action and the
first to install the synthetic racing surface Polytrack,      chicklets simultaneously. The simulcast signal
adopted Trakus as a way of staying one step ahead of          Keeneland sends to OTBs does not feature Trakus, but
the competition.                                              TVG has decided to use the split-screen format in its
   AI think it=s a matter of trying to stay competitive and   broadcast of Keeneland races.
current,@ Willmot explained. AIn this company we do our          In addition to Keeneland and Woodbine, several
due diligence quickly and                                                                    tracks have expressed inter-
embrace change and in-                                                                       est about installing the
novation quickly. It=s a                                                                     Trakus system, and the
very competitive world                                                                       company is currently in talks
out there for the betting                                                                    with a handful of those
dollar, and you have to be                                                                   tracks, including Del Mar,
agile and innovative to                                                                      Mohawk Racetrack (a Stan-
continue to move for-                                                                        dardbred track owned by
ward. You have to posi-                                                                      Woodbine), and several
tion yourself for success.@                                                                  Magna tracks.
   Willmot added that he=s                                                                     In the future, Trakus also
been happy with the re-                                                                      hopes to bring the >virtual
sponse from Woodbine                                                                         race= experience into the
fans.                                                                                        hands of race fans, said Mc-
   "Like everything else in                                                                  Carthy, allowing them to,
this business, people are                                                                    among other things, use the
resistant to change,@ he                                                                     technology as a handicap-
said. AI would say some                                                                      ping tool through betting
of the purists are not all that keen about it, but I'm        web sites, as well as through a track=s own site.
amazed at how many people who have been involved in              Keeneland=s site has already begun using Trakus to
the business for years and years love the chicklets. It's     assist handicappers, allowing them to see how far a
so much easier, in a crowded field that's on the other        particular horse traveled in a race in feet. For instance,
side of the racetrack, to see where your horse is posi-       in last Friday=s first race, the winner Cape Sunset tra-
tioned. Also, we have 28 OTB outlets, and personally,         versed 4,867.1 feet. The runner-up, Belawood, ran
in a crowded, noisy OTB with a lot of TV=s, I think it        4,884.5 feet, some 17.4 feet farther than Cape Sunset.
really helps. I=m a big fan.@                                 It may be a small detail, but one trip handicappers are
   When Keeneland put in the Trakus system for its            sure to appreciate.
2006 fall meeting, the storied race course=s objectives          From David Willmot=s perspective, features like this
were slightly different than Woodbine=s.                      are just the beginning of what Trakus will someday
   AThey wanted to enhance the on-site experience for         offer fans.
their patrons at the racetrack,@ explained McCarthy.             AWe=re only using about 1 1/2 of the eight cylinders
   Like Woodbine, Keeneland installed Polytrack this          in terms of what data and information can come from
year, and also added a dynamic new toteboard in the           the Trakus system, which I think will be a big benefit to
                                                              handicappers,@ he said.
infield that features five high-definition, large-screen
                                                                 Bob McCarthy agrees.
LED boards (see box 2). It=s on these boards that the
                                                                 AThere are a lot of things in the pipeline that we=re
Trakus experience can be fully appreciated. The center
                                                              very excited about it,@ McCarthy said. ABut we=ve really
board, which is roughly twice the size of the four
                                                              come a long way.@
smaller boards that it falls between, has the live pro-
gram feed. On the left-hand side of that screen is a
vertical running order of the complete field, including                          Tracking Trakus
odds that are generated by Trakus. The far right and far           Click to see the replays of last Sunday=s trio of
left boards provide split times and standard tote infor-                      graded stakes at W oodbine
mation, while the board to the direct right of the center                    GI Canadian International S.
is of the chicklets representing the runners on the track.                         GI E.P. Taylor S.
                                                                                    GII Nearctic S.
The screen to the direct left of the center has another
innovative Trakus feature, the >virtual race,= a real-time
                                                                   EDITOR’S NOTE: TDN publisher Barry W eisbord
digital representation of the race that some have lik-
                                                                             is a stockholder in Trakus.
ened to the graphics of a video game (see box 3).

				
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