CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Jockey Ruby Walsh checks his phone as his mount Hurricane Fly looks on during exercise prior to the festival meeting commencing on Tuesday at Cheltenham racecourse on March 14, 2011 in Cheltenham, England (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images)
Last week I took a look at some of the more prominent horse racing websites and how they fit into the landscape of implementing technology into the horse racing industry. As we saw, for the most part, racing websites hit all the necessary notes that we would expect - news, handicapping information, analysis, replays, and even some live video. There is still room to grow in the future (most notably on the live video side) but the industry isn't seriously lagging behind other sports in terms of a web presence. While horse racing has done a good job on that side of the equation, the situation with mobile applications is a little bit behind.
As I did with the previous installment in this series, I'm taking a look at mobile applications from my personal, subjective viewpoint based on the kinds of information and functionality I'm looking for. Additionally, I'll be discussing mobile applications specifically related to the iPhone 4s (since that's what I'm using), although many of the racing apps are available on both the iPhone and Android platforms.
In terms of the criteria I use to judge these apps, I am particularly interested in how much of the website's functionality transfers to mobile use. For example, if I can watch a race replay on site X, can I do the same on my mobile device? If I can access past performances on the web, can I do the same in a relatively easy manner on my mobile? That's the crux of the issue for me - the transfer of functionality from the laptop to the cell phone. At the end of the day, the whole idea of the mobile app or device is to bring the functionality of your home computer with you when you are away.
If you go into the App Store on your iPhone (or iPad/iPod Touch) and type in "horse racing" or some variation thereof, you get a ton of apps, many of which are horse racing themed games and simulations, but not much generated geared towards horseplayers. If you sift through and find the apps relevant to horseplayers you'll likely come across many of the ones that I'm going to highlight in this post, although you might have some favorites that I don't use on a day-to-day basis.
Below is a summary of some of the bigger names in the horse racing industry and the types of mobile applications they currently offer. If they don't have a mobile app, I'll take a look at whether their website is optimized for mobile browsers.
Equibase Today's Racing
This racing app is perfect if you're looking for the bread and butter information on any track. You can get track schedules, entries, scratches/changes, and results. The results also have links to the full chart, as well as race replays (if you subscribe to that service through Equibase).
I use this app all the time if I'm away from the track (or my laptop) and want to keep up with the results going on across the country. I also like to use it to pick up on the scratches/changes at tracks I'm simulcasting when I'm physically at the track, since sometimes the monitors display the information too quickly for me to take in. This is an excellent app and one that I think most horseplayers would find useful.
Equibase Racing Yearbook
While you need an Equibase subscription plan to access race replays on the "Today's Racing" app, the Yearbook app provides free replays to all stakes races during a specific year. A new app comes out for each season (2010, 2011, etc.) that contains all the stakes results for that year, sorted by races, horses, jockeys, trainers, or track. The app is updated fairly quickly with results and replay links so if you are away from the track/tv and wanted to quickly get a replay of a stakes race you missed, you'll find it on the Yearbook.
TwinSpires.com and TVG
Neither TwinSpires nor TVG have true mobile apps, but instead offer mobile-optimized versions of their standard websites. I've never bet using the TVG mobile site but I've used the TwinSpires site on multiple occasions. It's pretty functional and provides good race video/audio, even if you are just using a 3G connection. I don't think the mobile-friendly sites are as smooth and as easy to use as mobile apps, but they get the job done if you really need to place a wager on the go (and who doesn't?!?).
Daily Racing Form
The Daily Racing Form is, surprisingly, really lacking in the mobile application department. Actually, they are really lacking in anything mobile related - either applications or simply mobile-friendly websites. If you like to use their Formulator program for past performances, you're in an even deeper hole.
Okay, first, the main website - it's not optimized for mobile browsers. They used to have a Blackberry app that I used several years ago, but it mainly provided "news, results, entries", and not a ton of handicapping data. The strength of DRF is their data and handicapping tools, which hasn't translated well to mobile devices.
Ticket Maker: If you've read Steven Crist's Exotic Betting, or you read his articles at the DRF, you know he's a big proponent of the multiple ticket strategy for playing Pick 4/5/6 wagers. The Ticket Maker app takes your selections, desired wagering limits, and constructs multiple tickets using this strategy. It's a nice "on-the-go" app if you're at the track and are trying to quickly put together lots of tickets to attack a sequence. This is clearly the best mobile product that DRF offers.
DRF Bets: Their new wagering platform is not optimized for mobile browsers. (and if it is, I haven't been able to figure out where that's at.) That's a big negative.
Formulator: A flash-based program... f you use an iPhone or iPad you already know what that means - it won't work on your device. I tried accessing Formulator on my old Android device; while you don't run into the Flash issues, it's not very functional.
In my opinion, this is the biggest area of need for a mobile app for the DRF: Formulation. The Formulator program is a great handicapping tool but currently it's limited to your laptop and, thus, your home (or lugging your laptop with you all over the place). Finding a way to put that power into a mobile device would be a huge step forward.
Racing Post (UK)
In my opinion, this is the best horse racing mobile app for the iPhone in existence. The transfer of functionality from the full website to the mobile device is accomplished with little loss. The app is organized, it's clean, and you can pull up race cards, past performance, and race charts very easily. If the DRF had an app like the Racing Post's, I would spend 10x more time on their site than anybody else's.
Similar to the Equibase apps in that it provides entries, picks, results, and replays. Additionally, this app has course maps for all tracks in the UK, showing the starting positions, elevation gains, and overall layout. This is a very handy guide if you are following UK racing.
The Breeders' Cup has really stepped up their game in terms of mobile apps the last couple of years. The 2011 app provided replays of all previous Breeders' Cup races, replays from Breeders' Cup challenge races (going back to 2007), and a collection of news and notes. The iPad app provided live video to this year's Breeders' Cup, something that is a welcome addition.
It's not a service that I use, but Equibase has a really nice app for their TrackMaster past performance products. The app is laid out very nice, very clean, and provides a wealth of handicapping information and data, including power ratings, speed figures, class and pace ratings, and other statistics. The app is so good that I've contemplated trying out the TrackMaster PPs just so I can use it.
Here's a really handy app that I stumbled across to use for tracking your bets. It's easy to track your bets when you are at home since your ADW saves that data for you (or you can do it yourself in Excel or something like that). When you are at the track, you need to save tickets or write down the information, which can get a bit messy, depending on how organized you are.
Race Tracker is an app that allows you to easily record your bets into your mobile device, eliminating the need to save tickets or find scraps of paper. It's really easy to use and I've found it helpful in organizing my betting records.
This apps costs $0.99 to install on your device.
The app from the BloodHorse looks pretty good but it only provides race results and not all of the news and data that you can find on their full site. The Equibase apps are a couple of steps above this one.
Bris doesn't have a mobile app that I could find but their website looks decent on a mobile browser. However, like the BloodHorse, Brisnet is behind Equibase in providing mobile functionality.
Track apps are less common since many tracks are simply optimizing their websites for mobile browsers, like Emerald Downs recently announced. In terms of costs to value, that's probably a good idea for most.
- Keeneland doesn't have a mobile app, but they have a stand-alone mobile website that looks very good on your phone browser. Additionally, Keeneland has introduced their FastBet wagering application for us by on-track patrons.
- Churchill Downs has a full-fledged mobile app with a live tote board and other information. It's not a bad app, but you can get more functionality from the Equibase products.
- Santa Anita has a nice mobile website that also includes a mobile betting interface that can be used when players are on-track and connected to Santa Anita's WiFi, similar to Keeneland's FastBet.
- Oaklawn is expected to introduce an app (MyOaklawn) prior to the start of their 2012 meeting. This app is also expected to have wagering functionality.
- Hastings Park in Vancouver, BC, has a phenomenal racing app containing news, wagering information (picks, analysis, a wagering calculator), video replays, and their Twitter feed. They don't offer a betting interface but, in terms of the information available, this might be the best mobile app developed by a track in North America. It's simple, functional, and provides all the key information you'd get on their full website in the palm of your mobile device.
The Big Picture
The selection and functionality of horse racing mobile applications is growing but is still behind other sports like baseball, football and basketball. The biggest need, in my opinion, is for improved mobile interfaces from TwinSpries and TVG, or the development of stand-alone mobile apps for both of those providers. Mobile websites are nice, but mobile apps, when done right, are so much easier to us.
The Daily Racing Form could also use a re-boot of its mobile initiatives. Ticket Maker is a good app; if they could do something similar to that, but provide either DRF Bets or Formualtor functionality, they'd really be on their game.
BloodHorse and Brisnet could use an upgrade in their mobile products, although given the Equibase products already out on the market, it's going to be tough to differentiate their apps.
I would expect that more and more tracks are going to follow in the footsteps of Keeneland and Santa Anita and provide wagering functionality through their mobile devices to on-track patrons. While it may seem silly for customers to need that option when you are at the track, it's another step towards the notion that the industry should do everything they can to make it easy for fans to follow and wager on horse racing.
The good news in the area of mobile devices for horse racing is that fact that the industry is well aware that this is an area where they must grow. We should continue to see advancement in this area over the next couple of years as the industry looks to fill the gaps in coverage and functionality.