Archives for April 2012

KENTUCKY’S GOVERNOR BESHEAR AND THE LASIX DEBATE

Only several weeks after the New York Times published a devastating (if flawed) indictment of horse racing in the United States pertaining to equine fatalities, jockey injuries and deaths, and race-day medication, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission voted on the phase out of furosemide on race-day in the Bluegrass state. The result was not reform, but “business as usual.”

According to the Associated Press, “The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission ended the tense discussion [Monday, April 16, 2012] on the use of furosemide with a 7-7 roll call vote on the proposed regulation that would have prohibited the drug from the Kentucky Derby in 2014, and in the whole state starting in 2015. The race-day ban would have first applied to 2-year-olds racing in 2013…The proposal would have made Kentucky the first state to ban race-day use of furosemide, marketed under the brand names Lasix or Salix.”

Kentucky Revised Statute 230.225 specifies that Kentucky Horse Racing Commission members are appointments by the governor for 3-year terms. Consequently, by the end of Governor Steve Beshear’s term of office in December 2015, he will have had the opportunity to replace every sitting member.

The next one or two vacancies on the Commission will be of utmost importance because the people appointed can break the tie on the Lasix issue. Governor Beshear will undoubtedly be under intense pressure from advocates on both sides.

Beshear came into office in 2007 with a deserved reputation as the most pro-horse racing governor ever. It will be interesting to see how this friend of horse racing decides what is in the best interest of the sport in Kentucky.

The view here is that he should see to it through his appointments that Kenucky bans the race-day use of furosemide. If racing’s image can’t be rehabilitated in the horse breeding and sales capital of the United States, the mission is lost.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

FACIAL RECOGNITION SOFTWARE TO IDENTIFY RACEHORSES

Lip-tattoo identification is the prevailing standard for authenticating that each horse arriving at the paddock for the next race is not there by mistake–or is not a ringer.

The science of biometrics now offers a contemporary approach to perform this task in a noninvasive way. The promising methodology is facial recognition software, which is increasingly being deployed by a variety of organizations to verify human and animal identity.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some airports installed facial recognition software. At that time, it was susceptible to being fooled; for example, if a person wore glasses or performed a facial contortion.

Since then, the accuracy of facial recognition software has been improved dramatically owing to 3-d scanning and the capacity to map unique features like scars and skin pores.

In the summer of 2011, Facebook introduced facial recognition software that identifies photos of individuals without their names attached. Other notable adopters of the technology include the military, police departments, casinos, and the FBI. When Navy Seals dispatched Osama bin Laden, facial recognition software was used to assist in corroborating his identity.

Recent tests by the National Institute of Standards found that the best facial recognition software can correctly identify two photographs of the same person more accurately than humans can, or over 99 percent of the time. One company sells an employee identification machine for $745 that it says can distinguish between pictures of identical twins.

The usefulness of facial recognition software is not limited to humans. To illustrate, the technology has made it much easier for game wardens to track wild animals like apes and elephants so their behavior can be studied.

Science Daily reports that apes are now routinely videotaped while feeding, in trees, and traversing the forest. To the naked eye, it is difficult to distinguish one ape from another, even in proximity. But facial recognition software has made it possible to sort out apes from their pictures, with a growing degree of validity.

Facial recognition software would be much more exact in confirming the identities of racehorses arriving at a paddock before a race than it is in identifying apes in their natural habitat. Each horse’s face would be photographed up close and then the image would be instantaneously compared to a registered photo of the animal. This protocol is precisely how employees are often cleared to enter secured workplaces.

The Jockey Club and racetracks need to experiment with a combination of facial recognition software and scannable radio frequency identification chips implanted under a horse’s skin–with an eye toward abandoning the crude and decidedly low-tech lip tattoo.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

Originally published in the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.

PRIME TIME

Breeders’ Cup is departing from tradition by televising the 2012 Classic (gr. I) from 8-9 PM EDT. NASCAR’s latest running of the Daytona 500 inadvertently demonstrated the power of primetime television.

The 2012 Daytona 500 was scheduled to begin at 1 PM EST on Sunday (February 26), but rain forced postponement for the first time in its 54-year history. Had the rain subsided by evening, FOX would have televised part of the race opposite the Academy Awards on ABC-TV and the National Basketball League All-Star Game on cable channel TNT.

However, rain persisted throughout Sunday and into the next day, delaying the start time until 7 PM Monday, February 27.

The NASCAR telecast suffered more bad fortune when several popular drivers were either put out of the race or had their chances compromised by an accident on the second lap. Then, on lap 160, a freak crash and explosion stopped the action for two hours.

The race finally ended early Tuesday morning, 36 hours after its original start time.

The silver lining for NASCAR in the prolonged delays was the unintentional first-ever nighttime telecast of the Daytona 500. Fox obtained its largest Monday night audience since Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.

About 36.5 million people watched some portion of the weather-plagued and incident-riddled marathon race–nearly equal to the 37 million viewers for the 2006 edition and an increase of 22 percent over 2011. At the time the telecast was interrupted for two hours by the wreck, an estimated 14.2 million people were watching.

Breeders’ Cup can be encouraged by the boost that NASCAR received from primetime television, though there is a caveat. The Daytona 500 had no opposition from NBA games because of the League’s brief break before and after its All-Star game, whereas the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be contending for viewers with late-season college football games.

(Owing to the Academy Awards telecast, the TV audience for the NBA All-Star game plunged by 22% from 2011: to 7 million U. S. viewers, compared to 39.3 million for the Hollywood event.)

The World Series and the Super Bowl began as afternoon American traditions but were transitioned to nighttime for additional television exposure. A promising, albeit controversial, audience-building and advertising-enhancing strategy for Churchill Downs and NBC is to telecast the 2013 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) from 8-10 PM EDT.

The potential benefits are compelling and competition from televised sporting events is not overly intense in early May because the pennant races in Major League Baseball have not heated up and the NBA playoffs are just beginning.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

Originally published in the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.