The Coolest Racing App You'll Never Have

by Kate Hunter,

It is no secret that horse racing isn’t the most tech-savvy sport, and it is no secret the industry has a big problem connecting with youth. The best way to attract more young fans would be to improve the way racing uses new technology, especially mobile devices.  

Sure, I have the Derby App, Preakness App, and Breeders Cup App, and yes, they are pretty nice, but I have seen the future! I have been fortunate enough to have experienced a racing app so amazing, so fulfilling, that you will turn green with envy.

This app is called JRA-VAN, a racing app launched by the Japanese Racing Association (JRA) earlier this year. It not only gives me everything I need, but also includes everything I could possibly ever want… AND they found a way to make me want to pay for it.

At its most basic level, this app is simply an Iphone/Ipad-based racing form. Each week they issue the entries and limited PPs for the races for all of the JRA tracks open at the time. Touch on the track/day you want, and it goes to a list of all 12 races. You can touch on each race to see the entries, their last 5 races, and the basic PP information like trainer, jockey, owner, weight, running style, race record, etc. You can then click on a horses name and view a profile, which includes connection names, picture of the owners silks, complete racing and training history (with video of both races and workouts), as well as a three-generation pedigree. If that isn’t enough, you can also choose to ‘like’ horses. So the next time a horse you ‘like’ is in a race, that race will be shown as red, alerting you a horse you have ‘liked’ is running. Jockeys and trainers also have profiles that you can ‘like’ as well so you can find out their starters or mounts for the week and their stats.  These don’t change the color of a race, but they are easy to find in the “liked” section of the app.

When you are handicapping a race using the app, you can ‘mark’ horses on the card that you are considering with a drop down list of symbols. This rating system can come in handy as you navigate through the race.  When the results are official after each race, the order of finish, pay outs, plus video replay are all promptly available on the app. When the race weekend is over, the app will post the nominations for the major races of the following week. The nominations are then updated and replaced with the post positions when they are drawn at the end the week. G1 race nominations are sometimes posted even earlier. The app also has a feature allowing you to bet using it. Just set up a internet betting account on another site, and plug in your account information.

One of my favorite things about the app is how much information the JRA built into it. You want to look up your favorite broodmare and ‘like’ all of her foals? You can do that. You have a favorite stallion and want to look at his list of registered 2 year olds? You can do that. You want to look up owners, breeders, or trainers to see their horses? You can do that too. The app also has about 16 years of history built into it. I can easily find the results to the 2nd maiden race at Sapporo Racecourse on the last Sunday in August in 1995 with a simple search, and I can even watch videos of all graded stakes races from 2007 and every race (regardless of class) from 2010 on.

So how much does all this cost? Roughly $7 for a month. The history, the searches, and the ‘liking’ of people and horses are all free, but to access the current week’s entries you need to pay for it.  Many people in Japan have actually said they are not interested in the app because they have to pay for it; in Japan, you can find pretty much all of the same information for free on the internet, including the JRA website or their paper based racing form. I have found my past few months using the JRA-VAN app the best of my two years following Japanese racing because now I never miss a horse I like because I forgot to check a website or buy a newspaper. It is all in my phone! I know who is nominated for next week’s G1, and I can watch their weekly workouts ALL from my phone! It fits in my pocket, and I can look at it anytime I want to without anyone knowing what I am up to. A racing form in Japan, with 1 day’s worth of cards, costs about $5, and you have to buy about 8 of those a month -- making that $7/month even more appealing!  There is something special about writing on a racing form, but having it on my iPhone is awfully handy and financially reasonable. It leaves me with more money to wager!

Fans don’t just need apps for big races, they need comprehensive and interactive apps that meet all the requirements for BOTH fans and handicappers alike. I can’t wait to see how this app evolves over the coming months because even now, as a 6 month old app, it is the most amazing thing I have ever gotten to use on my iPhone. Even better than Angry Birds! And it is precisely the sort of thing that US racing needs. Are you green yet?

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