The Breeders’ Cup Forum: Trainer Ken McPeek and ‘the coolest horse racing app ever’

by | 04.12.2012 | 6:28am

Kenny McPeek first started talking to me last fall about this app for iPhones he was developing that he promised was going to be the “coolest horse racing app ever.”

  “Sure,” I said politely at the time. “Can't wait to see it.”

In truth, I was really thinking, “What on earth is a Thoroughbred trainer doing in the technology world? He's probably lucky if he knows how to use an iPhone, much less create an app for one.”

Well, six months later, I can eat some crow. Ken and Sue Lustig McPeek have launched Horse Races Now, an iPhone application available at iTunes that pushes out live video of races along with other information from participating tracks. Now that it's out there and available (here) it seems like a good time to talk to McPeek about Horse Races Now.

What are the primary features of the Horse Races Now app?
Probably the most special features are the push notifications. It's modeled after the ESPN Score Center. For example, if you're a UK basketball fan, Score Center gives you a push on your iPhone or iPad before the game, another one when it starts, then at halftime, then you get another one for the final score and a box score.

With Horse Races Now, you get a push 15 minutes before a race, another one when they are at the gate (along with the sound of a starting gate). You click on this notification and it takes you to a live feed of the race, if it's from one of the participating tracks. We have about 20 tracks right now. The list is on the website.

Post race we have the sound of a cash register that gives you results and prices.  Twenty minutes later, the sound of a horse whinny tells you the replay and chart is available. If you just press launch app on any notification, you go inside the app and can navigate.

Who is it designed for?

Well it's designed for horsemen, fans, bettors. It's not necessarily one or the other; it's really for everybody.

How did you come up with this idea?
I was motivated to do this when I was watching a show on MSNBC a couple years ago on the development of phone apps and how it was going to change how we will function. I did a Google search for horse racing phone apps and there was a list of none. The MSNBC show had a tutorial on how they are made, etc.

I hired a small developer at the time that said they could put it together, and turns out they couldn't. So I ended up working with The Jockey Club Technology Services and Roberts Communications Network. Keeneland and Canterbury were the first tracks to work with us. We get our entry and results information from Equibase.

Is there a plan to develop this for the Android market?
Yes, it eventually will be available for Android, but probably not until the fall.

How are you pricing it?

It will likely be on a subscription, around $2.99 a month. It's not going to be an expensive deal. We want to keep the price down so we can gather some new fans. We have initial investment and have ongoing expenses.

What's the ultimate goal for Horse Races Now?
If we can make it profitable, we'd like to give the money back to the racetracks, back to the purse structure. Ultimately the horsemen, horses and racetracks are the ones that put the product together. At the moment, racetracks don't receive any revenue from race replays. This is a niche product and I want to make an important point about it: We are not a wagering app. We are an entertainment or sports app. We have links to wagering sites or racetracks. If you're under 18 you can't open a wagering account, and if you're in certain states, you can't open a wagering account. We've found there are a lot of women who don't open wagering accounts, and they still want to watch races. Girls and women really like using this.

Why are you, a horse trainer, involved?
I probably did it out of frustration because I care about the game. If we don't figure out how to get into the mainstream, and soon, this sport's in trouble. I like doing things that people say you can't do. I love the sport and somebody needed to do something like this. I presented it to the NTRA to try to get them involved, but they weren't interested. The Jockey Club has had a good view of it, and they've got their own agenda. So I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I've done well in this business, and I decided to make an investment in this sport.

If we can get 100,000 downloads and we are able to expand the fan base … that's the goal. We've had 5,000 downloads from 40 different countries so far, and we really haven't done any advertising. Our hope is that it goes viral. Our biggest hurdle is that we need more racetracks to embrace this.

Why would a track not be involved?

It's beyond me. I have no idea. We've run into tracks that want to look at it. It's like an alien that they've never seen before. It's warm and cuddly but some tracks are afraid it's going to bite them. It's literally new ground. If Keeneland can do it and Hollywood Park can do it, there's nothing for tracks to be afraid of. We want to promote racetracks and we want to promote wagering companies.

You can't put a wagering app on the Apple Store. That's against their policy. They don't want adult content and they don't want gambling. That's why we are niched. We are the only live horse racing app available on iTunes.

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