11/01/2011 11:25AM

Breeders' Cup: University of Arizona students start company to improve horse racing video

Barbara D. Livingston
Robby Albarado wears a camera for EquiSight as he works Court Vision at Churchill Downs.

On a typical weekday at 8 a.m., most college students are preparing for class, or so the parents funding their educations can only hope.

David Matt, a senior at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, wasn’t even close to campus Monday morning, or even in Arizona. Rather, he was on the Churchill Downs backstretch, watching Havre de Grace breeze in the morning hours in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

His family need not worry. Matt, co-founder of the video production company EquiSight with classmate Kenleigh Hobby, was hard at work, getting video footage of the filly’s workout from a small high-definition camera affixed to the top of the helmet of jockey Gabriel Saez, who worked the filly.

The video recorded her final pre-Breeders’ Cup workout from her rider’s perspective, catching the sounds and speed of the filly as she breezed five furlongs in 1:02 – giving the viewer the feeling of what its like to be aboard a horse going over 35 miles per hour.

“It was a senior project – we do a capstone – to identify a pressing issue within the industry,” Matt said of the creation of EquiSight. “The problem we’re trying to solve is to improve the video production in horse racing. We want to improve the quality and get fans more interactive since its not really exciting watching the pan angle.”

Although helmet-attached cameras have been used in recent years by major networks covering horse racing, EquiSight hopes to utilize these cameras in less traditional ways. Matt said their aim is to embed the camera into a helmet, meeting safety regulations, and to use wi-fi technology, thereby providing fans the ability to see a race instantly from their home computer, or even a portable tablet device or smart phone.

The $300 high definition cameras they currently use, which are affixed to the top of a rider’s helmet, do not provide them with that instant access, nor do the cameras meet safety regulations for racing use in some jurisdictions – though EquiSight has been able to film races at Turf Paradise and Colonial Downs. These videos, as well as their workout footage, are available on their website, Equisight.com, youtube.com, or facebook.com.

Matt – a son of Wendell “Corky” Matt, a jockey for more than 25 years – said the company plans to recruit investors in the coming months in advance of their new helmet technology being completed.

In the meantime they’re at Churchill with the help of Breeders’ Cup, who Matt said “brought us out here, to help us out a little bit, provide coverage for the trainers, and for additional value to add on to the Breeders’ Cup content.”