09/26/2004 11:00PM

New point-of-call technology


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland Racecourse received approval on Monday from Kentucky regulators to conduct trials during its upcoming October meet in which information from races will be compiled electronically, the first experiment of its kind in the United States

The trials are designed to assess the capabilities of an electronic system that collects information on the speed and position of individual horses at all times during a race. If successful and implemented by other racetracks, the system could have far-reaching consequences on how American past-performance information is compiled, analyzed, and presented, Keeneland officials said.

"Hopefully this will be the wave of the future," Keeneland's president, Nick Nicholson, told the 16-member Kentucky Horse Racing Authority at a meeting on Monday.

Nicholson and officials from Equibase, which helped install the system for Keeneland, said the October experiments would not affect the racing public. Official chart information will continue to be compiled during the October meet by Equibase employees, who use their eyes and video tools to determine a horse's position at specific points of call in a race.

The new system will use four-ounce radio-frequency transmitters placed in the saddlecloths of each horse in a race. The transmitters will continually relay information to a network of 30 antennas near the Keeneland racing oval, so that a horse's speed and position can be determined within an accuracy of a half-meter, according to Phil O'Hara, the president of Equibase.

The system, currently in use by auto-racing sports and at several racetracks in England, would allow bettors to know the total distance a horse traveled in a race, the time at which a horse began accelerating or decelerating, and whether a horse's path traveled uphill or downhill, Nicholson and Equibase officials said.

O'Hara said that the purpose of the trials at Keeneland will be to assess the accuracy of the system, and that Equibase does not know how the data might be presented in past-performance format. The results of the data will also not be used in any of the official charts of Keeneland's races, O'Hara said.