Blog – Friday 2nd June

Welcome to another blog from the team at Pontefract Racecourse.

Every fortnight, someone from the team will share their thoughts for your entertainment (or otherwise!):

  • Managing Director, Norman Gundill with his trusty PA, Caroline who also looks after the hospitality,
  • Accounts Manager, Nicola,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard (who is writing today’s blog)

Will AI change the future of horse racing?

I wear a few different hats at the Racecourse – Clerk of the Course and Chief Operating Officer as well as overseeing the Marketing, Brand and Sponsorship offering at the track. I try to keep track of new trends and developments in the racing world, while also keeping an eye on the broader aspects that the different sides of my role entails.

The marketing world is in continual development – especially when it comes to the digital offering. Once upon a time, the website was the primary digital space available to companies. Now, social media is constantly evolving. Not so long ago, MySpace seemed to be the only site that was available but this has quickly been overtaken with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, You Tube, TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Pinterest among many that are easily available to the general public. There’ll be many more derivatives of these sites to follow too in coming years and each will bring their own unique selling point.

The ‘new kid on the block’, perhaps most significant in terms of marketing, is undoubtedly ChatGPT. Artificial Intelligence (or AI) has been around for a while but the speed in which it has developed is frightening. I remember watching a film called ‘I,Robot’ which seemed to be a futuristic experiment that could never really be replicated in real life. Well the future is here! Many websites already have simplified versions of AI in the form of chatbots, who answer basic questions on behalf of the business who deployed them. With the dawning of ChatGPT, there is now huge potential for these to be able to solve most of the problems that the user has. Google and Bing have swiftly launched their own counterparts to ChatGPT and it’s wise to expect newer and more impressive versions to follow soon.

What does ChatGPT do? In the simplest terms, ChatGPT takes on the conversational skills of a person to solve a problem for the user. It uses learnings from all it’s previous conversations to improve the responses which ensures that it is always developing.

However, the data set that it uses currently only goes up to, and includes, 2021, and so there are errors on occasion. The site also does not have live access to the internet and so some of the results can be slightly outdated. The technology, while impressive, is somewhat basic and crude and it might not use the voice and tone that you would expect.

For example, this is the response that was generated when I asked how to book tickets.

However, as a prototype for a tool, the potential is enormous and will undoubtedly get bigger and better.  

Will AI take over the future of horse racing?

I decided to ask ChatGPT just that. The response is here

While the algorithms are developing rapidly, there is still no way to predict what will win the 6.30pm at Ponte next week and so, from that point of view, human input will always be required. They’re unlikely to ever be able to ride or train a horse and put tactics in to play either. However, from a Clerking perspective, the Going Stick that is currently widely in use offers the first glimpse of technology in determining the state of the ground. It’s not such a huge leap of faith to imagine that one day in the future, AI will be used in turf care.

For now, the human touch is still required. But the future is not far away.