Horse racing is one of the most popular sports across the northern hemisphere, notably in the United Kingdom, United States, and Western Europe. The industry is extremely lucrative for those involved in the upper echelons of the sport, while the leading events attract thousands of spectators over the course of their respective seasons. However, the sport has not found a home on the African continent outside the former colonies of the British Empire such as South Africa.
One area that could change the way people look at horse racing outside of the US and UK is the development of technology such as artificial intelligence within the sport and online betting. Horse racing tends to have a purist following in regions outside of Europe and the United States who follow the daily horse racing results passionately. In the UK and Ireland, there is a core following but there are also fans with a casual interest in the betting angle of the sport.
Artificial intelligence programs have allowed users who do not passionately follow the sport to bridge the gap in knowledge to give them a helping hand with their wagers. The technology takes into account all the leading factors about horse racing such as form, weather, pedigree, and the condition of the track. All the data is inserted into a formula, which then selects the horse that has the best chance of winning a certain contest. The technology is in the fledgling stage of its development in the United Kingdom and Ireland, but with success, it could spread across the globe and perhaps spark an interest in those tech-savvy users in Africa.
The Rainbow Nation is committed to its love of horse racing, hosting the Sun Met, which is similar to the Grand National, every year where the great and good of South Africa convene at Kenilworth Racecourse in January for the premiere event. Races are held throughout the year, including the prestigious South African Derby, which garners great interest from around the country and captures the attention of the rest of the continent. It is not alone in staging events in Africa, but the lack of eye-catching events appears to have prevented the sport from making a breakthrough into the mainstream.
It could be all-important to keep the sport alive in certain areas of the continent. For example, Kenya also stages regular meets at the Ngong Racecourse. Horse racing in Kenya dates back to 1914 when the Kenya Derby was first held in the country. The Kenya Derby attracts a great number of spectators to the Ngong Racecourse, but outside of the signature event, interest in the sport is sparse, to say the least.
The added use of technology could be vital to create a familiarity and interest in horse racing. Ngong Racecourse is the only track in the country, but there could be an opportunity to capitalize on our love of technology, pairing our insatiable ability to remain on our mobile devices and pair it with a love of a sport. It has worked with the Premier League, bringing the product to television screens across the continent, and an added dimension could yield a watershed moment for horse racing in Africa.