Horse racing is one of the most popular sports in the world. Different countries have different horse racing traditions and tracks vary, but for many centuries, people have enjoyed watching horses racing around a track, and placing a bet on the outcome.
A Brief History of Horse Racing
The earliest horse races date back to around 4500BC when nomadic tribesmen raced each other on domesticated horses. By the 12th century, English knights had discovered that breeding the Arab stallions they brought back from the Crusades with English mares resulted in super-fast offspring. It wasn’t long before Kings and noblemen were privately taking bets on whose horse was the fastest over a set distance.
In the US, horse racing survived the anti-gambling sentiment of the early 1900s, and today, it flourishes. Spectators flock to major events in the horse racing calendar, such as the Kentucky Derby and the Cheltenham Festival – if the latter appeals, you can find some great betting tips for day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival, to improve your odds of winning.
Horse racing remains as popular as ever because it offers punters the opportunity to bet on the outcome of a race, even if they know nothing about the horses racing. Unlike football, where the result of a match is largely predicated on the skill of the players, there is an element of chance in horse racing that adds an extra level of excitement.
Bettors can look at the odds for each horse and get a fair idea of which one is likely to win, but anything can upset the outcome. Sometimes outsiders win against all the odds or the favourite falls at the final hurdle. However, all of this relies on actual horses and jockeys racing in real-life events. Even when a race is televised, horses still race.
The Rise of the Virtual Race
Virtual horse racing is a very different beast. The premise is the same: horses compete against each other in a race, with the winner the first horse past the winning post. In a virtual horse race, however, software is used to emulate horses and racetracks. Much like a video game, the virtual race software creates a hyper-realistic racetrack or field, weather conditions will vary, and each virtual horse looks just like the real thing.
In a real-life horse race, the winner is determined by a mixture of the horses’ speed and endurance, the jockeys’ skill, and luck. In a virtual race, the outcome is decided by an algorithm or random number generator. Each horse and jockey are pre-programmed using statistics and probabilities, but the result is randomised. Every race run by the software has a different outcome.
As well as lifelike graphics, virtual horse races also have added commentary, just as races do in real life. The odds for each horse will be displayed on the screen, to help viewers in their decision-making.
The Advantages of Virtual Races
Virtual horse races offer several advantages. Races only last for a few minutes, so multiple races can be run in any given day, 24-7. You don’t have to wait weeks or months for a horse race to be televised; you can place a bet on a virtual race at any time of the day or night. Virtual horses don’t get tired or suffer fatal injuries, so there is no cruelty involved. The costs of running virtual races are also very low compared to hosting a major horse racing event.
The Disadvantages of Virtual Races
There are some downsides too. Watching a software-generated virtual horse race isn’t the same as watching an actual race. No matter how good the software, the horses are not real, and it won’t offer the same degree of excitement.
Is horse racing likely to become all virtual in the future? This is unlikely. Most people prefer real-life horse races, so the chances of horse racing fading into the annals of history are remote. However, the world is increasingly digital, so it makes sense that virtual horse races will become increasingly popular.
Many popular horse races were run virtually during the height of the pandemic after live events were cancelled. There are even NFTs being created, which is certainly a pioneering move for the horse racing world. What comes next? Watch this space!