A Camera in Every Stall? Merging Derby Security and Marketing

by | 05.07.2013 | 11:05am
Vyjack, under watch at Churchill Downs

It's hard to imagine making the Kentucky Derby a much more popular event than it is already, but I have an idea that could lead to increased public interest in the competing horses, heighten the level of security and transparency, and save Churchill Downs money.

For this year's 139th Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and Churchill Downs worked together on a security plan that began on April 30, the day entries were taken for the race. Jefferson County sheriff's deputies were assigned to each of the 21 horses entered. From 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., uniformed officers monitored all of the activity surrounding their horse, logging information about when the horse left his stall and came back, who went into the stall and why, and any treatments that were given to the horse. Syringes were confiscated and tested. In addition, out of competition testing was conducted on horses that were expected to run in the days before entries were taken.

From 6 p.m.-6 a.m., security wasn't quite as tight, with one officer assigned to each barn that housed a Derby entrant.

One horse, Vyjack, was singled out for even tighter security when the KHRC's license review committee and the horse's trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, agreed on a plan for video surveillance that was a condition of Rodriguez being licensed in Kentucky.

And that's where my idea comes into play.

The KHRC used a surveillance system from a company in Nashville, Tenn., www.stallwatch.com, that is popular among horsemen who like to keep tabs on those rare occasions when they're away from the barns.

The system has as many as four cameras, uses infra-red technology that makes night vision clear, and is accessible on a smart-phone app. There are no lights, and the cameras do not bother the horses in their stalls. Cloud storage makes video replay accessible for a week or more. And the cost is far from exorbitant.

So where does a superior video surveillance system intersect with a plan to make the Kentucky Derby even more popular than it currently is?

That's easy.

For next year's Kentucky Derby, install cameras on every one of the Kentucky Derby contenders. Put the live feed at the official website for the Derby, permitting fans to watch their favorite horses around the clock as the big day approaches. Trust me, they'll be fascinated by the daily habits of these horses and will get to know the grooms, assistant trainers, trainers, and even the veterinarians.

Instead of hiring dozens of off-duty sheriff deputies to watch over each horse, Churchill Downs and the KHRC can get a few people to keep an eye on the monitors. If all the Derby horses are stabled in one of a few stakes barns, security officers can collect syringes and maintain logbooks.

Call me crazy (I've been called a lot worse), but I don't see any downside to this. It would bring the public closer to the game than they've ever been before without intruding on the horses in any way, and adds the kind of surveillance that will help prevent tampering or rule violations, ensuring the integrity of America's greatest race.

(Note: Thanks to Paulick Report reader Craig Brogden of Machmer Hall who, in a published comment following the Rudy Rodriguez license hearing, originally suggested putting security cameras in the stalls of all Kentucky Derby horses and making the feed available to fans.)



  • Unless Churchill Downs can figure out a way to gouge the public by charging for the views, this will never happen. Too bad — it’s a great idea.

    • Knowitall

      Aw, Rebekah, don’t plant another seed of greed in the CDI garden!

    • Don Reed

      I’ll go with the idea that you’re being sardonic.

    • indyone

      HAH! You’re probably right!

    • Stanley inman

      One need not witness much of Churchill management
      To know there will be no
      “public viewing” (IMO).
      wouldnt that leave them worse off?
      “look grandpa they just stuck a needle in that horse”
      “stop your crying you little…they did not”
      “Yes they did,
      I saw it too” chimes in
      Cousin billybob

      • Stanley inman

        Didn’t the entire field
        run on a drug outlawed
        Everywhere else in the world/
        On raceday?
        How does grandpa explain that
        To young racefans?

    • Laurel

      Just charge a minimal fee for the “app for that”.

  • Its common sense Ray and may I add that one day in the near future stall cameras will be used at every race track all over the planet…Its a great social media tool that will bring a ton of Exposure to “The Game” and the Integrity Gamblers/Honest Trainers (the ones that row the boat) are looking for…More great stuff from the PR!!!…ty…

  • uhm… what happens when a lighting storm knocks power out & the cameras go dark?, or someone cuts the cable to the camera & ……?

    • RayPaulick

      There is a backup battery pack power supply. Anyone tampering with the cameras will be…you guessed it….caught on camera!

    • Wireless is the way to go…In the future the tracks that have the cameras set up will more than make it up in handle compared to those that don’t go along with the program…

  • Di

    It’s a great idea, and fans would love it. Win Star Farms has cams to watch on their website, & I love following the sires I like. If power goes out, have back-up generator for the cameras! It’s definitely a win-win for fans and track.

    • Lhartley

      i didn’t see a link on their page for live cams, do you have it?

  • jttf

    nice idea. the extra security may have helped bring in higher derby pools.

  • Knowitall

    It is a great idea. But I wouldn’t ask trainers that stable at CDI or want to stable with a specific trainer pal’s barn to move their Derby horse into one of a few stakes barns. That disrupts them, their staff, and the horse while lessening first hand security. Still employ the security guards. You know, maybe CDI can ask the Deputies to “volunteer” their time;-)

    • They have more than enough bread to pay the cops…Period…

  • This is a fabulous idea.

  • Ray, I thought you were going to advocate cameras in every stall for security with respect to preventing the use of illegal drugs in horseracing. Famous clocker Bruno de Julio talked about this last year in the following NYTimes blog:

    It’s something to think about.

  • LongTimeEconomist

    A friend of mine ran a horse in the Japan Cup several years ago and he told me that all horses racing on any given day had to report to a security barn the day before. No vets were allowed in except association vets. Access by others was limited.

    If it works over there, why not here?

  • Bill Casner

    We installed cameras at WinStar Farm 3 years ago in our training barn, stallion barn, foaling barn and a few other barns. They can be viewed on the Stablemates website in real time. It certainly creates a great access item for owners and fans of the horses.
    Prior to video cameras in Las Vegas, the cheats had a free rein and were difficult to catch.
    Crime in Manhattan has been reduced by 30% and it is attributed to increased video surveillance cameras.
    The Boston and London bombers were caught with video surveillance cameras.

    My mother told me many times “Character is who you are when no one is watching”.
    No brainer Ray….

    • Don Reed

      Bill, thanks for your thoughts & also, for taking the chance that in doing so, you’re exposing yourself to the irrational, stinging reactions that usually discourages other to do the same.

      The very best to you best in the future, and I really mean that.

    • bluehen16

      Hi Bill, Maybe we could install video and audio surveillance of all TRPB meetings and members to monitor why they continue not to prosecute trainers who are caught doping horses, and the board of directors at the jockey club to find out why those same folks are not given a lifetime ban. Greg

      • I agree with this whole-heartedly. I see a lot of token gestures to placate the public; but as long as trainers are allowed to circumvent their penalties and continue to enter races when they are banned…it’s nothing but a bunch of lip service and horse-sh%t.

  • amgm1431

    Cameras are great. We have them on brood mares and find them interesting to watch. Handicappers will know from watching cameras which horses are settled in and which are going through nervous antics in the week before a race.

  • giftoffaith

    Sounds like a good idea and fun one too. Let the public have a chance to (be) on the backside. It will also give them a chance to see the care the atheletes receive.

  • Don Reed

    Merging anything with “Marketing” (i.e. CDI BS) produces the following:

    “We’re excited… we’re very excited… we’re beyond excited… believe it or not, we’re excited, and in addition, we’re excited, but besides THAT we’re excited, and in case the last ten seconds of the sound bite got clipped. We’re EXCITED!!!”

    No. They are. Not. FAKE, staged reactions.

    GET RID OF the “marketing” (Advertising) and the honesty takes care of itself.

    In other words, Orb (the antithesis of BS/”Marketing”) won the Derby.

    “Marketing” brought us the disgrace/heartburn of Dutrow’s Big Brown.

  • Larry Ensor

    Quality wireless video cameras have been available for years at a fraction of the cost they were in the late 90’s. Not to be snarky but hardly cutting edge technology. We installed wireless foaling cams in 2006. East set up has 4 inferred cams, a quad processor that divides the monitor/TV into 4 showing all 4 stalls and or rotating full screen each stall for preset time intervals. B&W at night without lights, excellent color with light and or day. It transmit’s the signal 1000 meters. Each set up cost around $800. I would bet a lot cheaper in quantity. Everything is off the self, plug and play.
    This site has been around for a number of years for the owners of foaling mares and or interested people.

  • Dantana

    Interesting that race tracks have cameras all over their grandstands: money rooms, mutual lines, bars, entries to restrooms, escalators, parking lots, etc etc. But none has backstretch cameras. Security in our barn areas is non-existent. Management should be embarrassed and ashamed of their lack of attention to the integrity of the sport.

    • betterthannothing

      And most importantly genuine compassion toward horses and their riders.

  • Black Helen

    I suggested this 10 years ago at NYRA.

    • You might has well been talking to a “Nudist Colony” about putting them in back then…

  • Black Helen

    Not many really want to catch the cheats, not at least the ones writing the races, it would take down too many of the big names in our sport, who fill the stalls and races at their tracks, it’s a conflict of business interest as they need the Super trainers and are therefore enablers to the detrimental and illicit drugging practices happening on the backside.
    We need to band together, cut the BS and get rid of these crooks.

    Of the 20 derby starters, I drew a line through all the cheating trainers, that eliminated many…
    Is was a very refreshing thing to actually stand up, get excited and cheer a clean horse onto victory, made me remember just why racing is the greatest sport and how I loved it so dearly till the crooks and horse abusing doping trainers took all the fun and sport out of the game.

    Congratulations to Shug and the entire old school generation who care about their horses.
    Take heed junkie trainers because you are coming down soon.

  • I think it’s a fabulous idea. The horses running would be monitored, the possibilities for drug violations would go down. The betting public would be more apt to spend money. It would bring back all the glory of what horse racing was and is.

    Marestare is another online video webcast. Lots of farms have terrible feed so I don’t watch them. Others seem like they have some kind of wireless remote their in the barn. We can see clearly what is going on. While most are silent you do get to understand what is going on.

    I think it’s a great idea.

    • Rockbarton

      Timely idea, with a chance of occasional vet cameo’s.

  • Christie Lane Craven

    That would be really really cool! What a great idea!

  • kim

    los alamitos does cameras on futurity horses from trials to final, Im all for it

  • betterthannothing

    Security? YES
    All horses deserve 24/7 security.

    Marketing? YES
    All horses are potentially marketable especially if with security, transparent medical records, less/no drugs and abuse, horses last longer, are safer to love and enjoyable to follow.

  • MA

    But this will expose how boring these horses’ lives really are and could be the opposite of good publicity.

  • Mimi Hunter

    It would be awesome and work well – as long as there are NO blind spots. I think it should be at every track and in every barn.

    • Fast Filly

      Most horses are out of their stalls for an hour or more every day, cameras can’t follow them….major vet work is not done in a stall, usually a wash rack or the shedrow..when you have several horses out at the same time that are bays, sorrels, it’s hard to tell which is which without checking the tatoo.

  • Fast Filly

    Okey, cameras in stalls for stakes races, means the horse have to move to the stakes barn,,very hard on horses to settle in, but can be done. What about the over night horses? The horses who make the race meet go…are you going to put cameras in every stall on the grounds? what about the tracks that don’t have stakes barns? What percentage of positive tests were from Stakes races? What about the other breeds, what are you going to do with them?

    • betterthannothing

      All race horses deserve top protection against abuse. Video-taping everything that touches them wherever they are at minimum one month before racing is how abuse prevention must begin.

  • Bill Steele

    If each horse had a sponsor it would pay for itself. (Stallion Farms-feed company’s- Vans etc.)
    Hey we never thought we would see the day we would pay for (bottled) water. You are right Ray there is no downside.

  • William Koester

    A truly wonderful idea that will probably never happen. Horseman groups that preach about transparency will fight this to the end. Imagine all of America watching all of the Derby horses getting shot up with a needle in the neck 4 hours before the race. That is a dirty little secret they will never allow the viewers to see.

  • Mixed feelings about this one…I wouldn’t want my butt on camera bending over in the stall. Sometimes things happen, you might get stomped and say a bad word, anything can happen. Most importantly, I don’t think that the backside workers should participate in what is no more than a reality TV show with no representation or compensation. Bad idea. Security is one thing but reality show? bad idea.

  • LOVE your ideas, as always, Ray. There are stables that charge fans for access to their cameras, and I for one, loving capitalism and hating socialism with every fiber of my soul, see no problem with selling app access to fans to raise money for – how about horse rescue, or anti-slaughter groups, or therapy horses for the disabled. Everyone wins. The more participation in the horse industry, the better for the horse industry.

    PS – Ray, I asked you a question about saving Hollywood Park and I never got an answer. :((

  • win-win-win on every level….

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