In case you missed it, there’s been a bit of controversy in the UK regarding dedicated punters employing their own drones to track horse races live.
The drones offer video feeds that are effectively instantaneous, giving some punters a few seconds advantage over the official race coverage (as well as a useful bird’s eye view).
For those betting in the run, this is crucial: at the click of a button they can take their position on the exchange before most others have even seen a mid-race move or incident take place.
Some savvy drone operators are reportedly selling their vision feeds to keen in-the-run punters, who are willing to pay big money for the advantage it offers. Despite complaints from broadcasters, authorities are a little unsure of what they’re able to do about it – if anything – given the drones are often flown from private land.
Britain’s Racecourse Association said: “Whilst frustrating, if the operator is not breaking the law there is limited further action that can be taken at this time.”
Broadcast delays are a technological reality. They’ve always been there and probably always will be in some form – as well as technological reasons, broadcasters often build them in for censorship reasons.
So how does racing in Australia compare, and what do you need if you’re serious about betting in the run?
We did a little bit of testing to see.
While our use of a simple stopwatch isn’t the most advanced of testing equipment, it gives a good idea of the types of delays experienced. We used the same 4G wireless connection for testing all online sources and took a few measurements to ensure there weren’t any one-off technological factors at play.
So What Did We Find?
We checked out the on-course vision at Caulfield during last Saturday’s racing. This live feed is shown on the main big screen on the infield, as well as other screens throughout the racecourse.
Watching the race finishes trackside at the winning post, the vision is as close to absolutely “live” as you could get. If there’s any delay at all, it’s completely negligible. Though of course, this could vary by racecourse.
Handily for our purposes, there’s also plenty of screens at Caulfield showing Sky Racing right next to the on-course vision. We tested these a few times and the gap we found was consistent: 5.3 seconds.
To follow this up and get a better idea for TV, we later looked at Sky Racing via Foxtel (satellite) versus two other sources: Racing.com on Foxtel (channel 529), and Racing.com on free-to-air TV (channel 78). The difference between the three was barely noticeable – maybe a tenth of a second here or there. So we’re fairly confident all television channels are basically the same.
From there, we could test a range of online sources for race vision – desktop and mobile apps for Sky Racing, Racing.com, Racing NSW, TAB and BetEasy. Some slight differences aside, they were all fairly consistent – around 8 – 9 seconds behind the TV broadcast, which generally puts them 13 – 14 seconds behind the live vision.
Obviously, that’s a concern if you’re betting in the run, but also if you like to get on at the very last second behind the jump.
So the lesson? It’s fairly obvious… if you need to be right on the ball, you have to be at the track. Additionally, the growing use of online sources means some fairly lengthy delays at this stage. Hopefully streaming infrastructure and technology improves.
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