by Garnet Barnsdale
Recently, I read a thought-provoking column in another industry publication that discussed how technology could help move the sport forward. There were some interesting ideas presented in parallel with some of the innovations the Pro Bowling Association has incorporated in conjunction with a recent resurgence and a return to network television.
But the immediate thought provoked in me was how some of the current technology just doesn’t measure up, starting with the wide disparity in video quality which in one recent case led to a Twitter user complaining to me about the camera angle at Northfield Park.
Twitter user @Rojthedoj1 posed this question to me in this tweet:
“@gocashking, Tell me who you think won the 11th race at Northfield Wednesday night?! The patrons at Mahoning Valley went nuts when they put up the results. Thanks, Roj”
Immediately, I opened my advanced wagering deposit and cued up the replay of the race in question – Race 11 from Wednesday, Feb. 6 — and to me it looked clear that the #2 horse, 35-1 shot Song In My Heart had got the win by about a head having slid up the passing lane.
Now, I watch enough races at Northfield Park to understand that there is a certain “angle” that favors the outside horse slightly. That’s my bone of contention with this form of technology, but I’ll get back to that. Incorporating the angle while I watched, it still seemed clear that Song In My Heart had won over the 3-5 favorite, #1 Revrac Harbor, and I wasn’t alone.
“There are many of us have done this for many years. I even called charts. There wasn’t one guy in the whole place that thought the 1 won,” @Rojthedoj1 tweeted. No one is suggesting the wrong number was posted, but the real question here is, in 2019, why do customers need to have to guess at the “angle” at the wire? In this specific case, it almost seems for some reason the angle was even more pronounced than usual somehow because regular players who know its effect still thought it was clear that the inside horse had won.
I’m not here to pick on Northfield Park in particular. I think we all know that the angle favors the outside horse at The Meadowlands and the inside horse at Mohawk Park. But at least at Mohawk Park, there is a close-up slo-mo replay that follows immediately after the race which shows the winner clearly from a straight-on angle, like the one used at the Los Alamitos quarter horse meet. This angle leaves no doubt.
Some tracks show slow-motion replays of the stretch drive that are on such a pronounced angle that it makes it look like the inside horse won easily if the winner was actually reaching up on the far outside at the wire. That’s just another “angle” that bettors need to learn.
Harness racing has seen some nice advances in technology in the past couple of years, such as the use of Curtis Macdonald’s drone camera at The Charlottetown Gold Cup and providing a live feed of The Stable.ca yearlings training down, or Ryan Clements creation of the Off and Pacing and Catch Driver games which are very popular. But before we start thinking about incorporating other more radical concepts, shouldn’t we fix some of the issues that directly impact bettors, like this camera “angle” that many bettors still find annoying?