Horse Owners Using Science To Pick Next Winner

Sep 25, 2017

You may have to pony up more than cash before your horse walks into the Winner's Circle. Increasingly buyers are realizing scientific information is key to determining whether their next yearling will be a super fast 3-year-old.

Analytics, biomechanics and saddle blanket GPS devices are among the technology equine companies are using to help their clients decide which horse to buy.

War Horse Place farm in Georgetown, Ky.
Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU

At War Horse Place farm in Georgetown, Kentucky, DataTrack International's Jay Kilgore demonstrates what information his company gathers and how it uses it. He takes two dozen measurements of a thoroughbred that will be sold next month. That horse may or may not have an ultrasound of the heart. There is also the option of high-speed video analysis.

Kilgore explains how biomechanics is key in whether horses win races in this Sports Science video using champion Zenyatta.

It's easy to see why prospective buyers, spending between $75,000 and $1 million, are willing to shell out an extra $1,000 for testing. Kilgore says a $400 heart ultrasound is included. "You want to make sure the engine matches the body. So you can't put that Volkswagen engine in a big Cadillac or SUV and expect it to go real far."

Australian trainer Mary Bray has a different strategy. She uses E-Trakka's saddle blanket equipped with a GPS and heart rate monitor to help her better understand the horse. It paid off, as explained in this CNET Magazine article.

Jay Kilgore takes twenty measurements. That information, combined with other data, can help determine if a yearling or 2-year-old will be ready to race as a 3-year-old.
Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU

Kilgore's company, DataTrack, often acts as a broker. He is in Australia now and his partner is in Europe. "We love when we find needles in the haystack for not a log of money... one of our clients is West Point Thoroughbreds. We bought a horse for them called Commanding Curve for only $75,000 at a 2-year-old sale. It passed the stride, passed the heart biomechanics."

Commanding Curve ran second to California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby earning $600,000 plus in 2014. Here's the call: