Modernising the Great Race – Why horse racing has to change


Horse Racing has always been known as the ‘Sport of Kings’. Once the great betting experience for the noble and the affluent, however, horse racing today exists as a sport anyone can access within a few seconds via their smartphone.  


Despite this fact, many of the processes and experiences around horse racing has been overtaken by other sports. From in-play betting on elite soccer in Europe to spreadbetting and Fantasy Sports on the NFL, in some senses, horse racing has been passed on the inside straight.  

That is, until now – and 1/ST Bet.  

1/ST Bet is a fully integrated mobile application and website that help sportsbettors weigh up horse racing statistics with real-time data to make a more informed decision on their investments. But they’re so much more than that, too. They’re a link to horse racing’s glorious past but also act as a conduit to its future, modernizing and revolutionizing the sport for new bettors, whether those are at the racetrack or not. 

We spoke to the CEO of 1/ST Technology and CIO of The Stronach Group, Paul Williams, to get the scoop on what is one of sportsbetting’s most exciting innovations. With a background in investment and a deep understanding of trading systems, Paul Williams was living in New York when he was asked to travel to Las Vegas at the age of 30 to help build a sportsbook business. By year 3, it was handling in excess of $3 billion. U.S. sportsbetting – essentially 50 countries trying to work as one – needed changing and Williams helped to do so, as well as modernizing the so-called ‘Sport of Kings’.  

“The reason horse wagering got left behind in the modern era was because it has a vocabulary that is hard to understand,” says Williams. “There’s no first, second and third, it’s win, place or show. There are a bunch of barriers to get through before you can understand what you’re doing. Sportsbettors often wonder if players are on a level playing-field. Two years ago, we started the journey to give players more data and 1/ST Bet is the end result of that journey.” 

1/ST Bet uses parimutuel odds rather than fixed odds, so the price isn’t finalized until the horse leaves the gate. In Williams’ words, “Everyone’s putting their money onto the table, and how people bet depends on the odds, rather than the house’s fixed odds. You’re betting against other players.” 

The advantage for sportsbettors is that 1/ST Bet then step in to give you more data on the horse, the race and the rider than ever before.  

“If we can give you a statistical percentage that gives you, the customer, the likelihood of the horse winning, and you pick the key fundamentals that you are interested in, then that will help you to handicap, as opposed to reading a past performance form which has numbers on or going on the back of the loudest jockey or silk colours you might like.” 

That data has helped grow 1/ST Bet into a real-time platform that is trying to represent value. 

“Statistically, if a horse is 3/1 to win because of its form, you should never take a worst price than that,” says Williams. “There are fundamentals and technical. Fundamentals are how big the horse is, or whether it likes the race, how fast its top speed is, as well as how good the trainer, jockey or stables are. Technicals are more like whether the market thinks it’s a 30/1 shot so that’s got to be valued against the actual value of the horse winning which might be more like 20/1.” 

Crucially, the 1/ST Bet app allows you to pick up to seven fundamentals and use them as your ‘cornerstone’ to betting. It’ll ask you if you think the surface is more important than the jockey and you can decide what the best factor is to weigh up your bet. As Williams explains, it’s one of the very few sports that give instant sportsbetting action.  

“Most American sports are more drawn out and they have lots of commercials,” he says. “Horse racing goes off at a pace every 20 minutes and if you watch multiple tracks, that’s every two minutes. It starts at around midday and runs ‘til around 9pm. You can get a lot of action in during that time. Getting people used to that was at the forefront of what we’re trying to achieve with the platform.” 

It’s taken two years for 1/ST Bet to come to the fore, but they have been helped by a changing in societal attitude across the USA in a number of areas. Williams calls 2018 “The Year of Vices” for the country.  

“America legalized marijuana, dropped the PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) and even legalized same sex marriages. The barrier over wagering disappeared. The horse racing industry was nervous that its customer base would move to sports wagering. I was bullish, I thought it would complement horse racing.” 

The reason for this is clear – Americans love to bet on sports that are wholeheartedly American. There was a physical time-slot that was therefore available if you discounted the appeal of European sports.  

“At midday, there are really no U.S. sports on television. Horse racing can lead you into that prime-time American sports broadcast,” says Williams.  

From 2018 to 2020, 1/ST Bet focused on the customer’s experience at the track. Customers who were used to the dusty corner of a casino, with many pensioners gathering to drink weak coffee and bet at the counter were out of date.  

“We made the sportsbook  an integrated area with a bar and a big theatre experience with your friends. We saw the sportsbooks as an opportunity to create an experience. The same customers are now getting better coffee and a comfortable seat and they’re betting on touch screen rather than walking to  a window with a 20-dollar bill. It worked relatively well. This year has pushed a lot of people over the hump.” 

The odd benefit of a customer base who have been forced to digitally integrate with new betting technology is one of the oddest things that COVID-19 has brought to the world. Sports wagering now complements horse racing rather than competes against it. As Williams explains, 1/ST Bet wants bettors to win more, and can help anyone compete against traditional house odds. 

“We want the customers to be as successful as possible, we’re not the house,” he says with a grin. “I like the tussle between the ‘Sport of Kings’ and blending that experience when the Ascot-type day can be a day out with your friends, at the track or from your own home.” 

1/ST Bet was created by 1/ST Technology, which aims to reinvent the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing. 1/ST’s goal is to achieve a world-class level of safety for horses and riders, provide a unique and fully engaging entertainment experience for our guests and online wagerers and to ensure rewarding and sustainable careers for our employees. 

“We need them to be healthy to continue to provide the product. We have between 1,000 and 2,000 horses at our venue. Most horses are shipped to the track and shipped home in Europe, but in the U.S. the horses stay on the Gold Coast and race here all year round, for example. We use all kinds of diagnostics to keep them healthy including surveillance and temperature gauges in the stables. Belinda Stronach, who is our Chairman and principal is very passionate about the health of our horses and jockeys.”   

The use of 1/ST Bet could become something every sportsbettor who loves horse racing uses. The app and website are being used by a lot of sports fans already. As Williams says, ‘Once you experience horse racing, it’s fun!’. The growth of 1/ST Bet is coming rapidly.  

“The 1/ST Bet app operates in 37 states across America, which is 25 more than mainstream sports today. It’s available to download in app stores and it’s on our website. It has a much lower barrier to entry than sports wagering; we don’t require so much information as sports wagering, you can deposit online and you don’t have to come in to a sportsbook. You get your account, access real-time streams and you’re away. We have all the main sportsbook wagerers coming to us now because they see the value in it.” 

Williams describes how 1/ST Bet has the ability to make the whole experience more enjoyable for consumers by using syncopated technology.  

“Not only do we control considerable and key content, we control the gambling. It’s the equivalent of Draft Kings moving an NFL game by 10 minutes,” he says. “I can play with our schedule to maximise the ecosystem to benefit the customer. We can delay races to maximise the experience so that no-one misses out. We’ve built a technology stack that keeps everybody from the man on the gate to the stewards to the betting app viewers and all our customers on betting apps syncopated. It’s quite an old-fashioned sport, but in some of its regulations, it’s set up for success.”  

When many fans watch televised horse racing, it can still look like the 1990s TV and 1/ST Bet’s evolution of horse racing and sportsbetting are only the beginning of big changes.   

“We’ve ramped up our output, but there’s still a long way to go. Broadcast has got to catch up in that sense and the consumer is expecting that. We put cameras on the horse and played with technology from France to turn it into a virtual reality experience. You can be on the horse the whole way round, you can look around while the race is going on, it’s really something.” 

1/ST Bet are at the forefront of development in horse racing, with ideas such as syndication of horse ownership to a league system that gives greater dramatic context to the Sport of Kings all at formative stages. Placing a bet on a horse race is thrilling – it’s the definition of instant gratification, and 1/ST Bet’s groundbreaking technology is going to bring even the most novice viewer into the fold, starting with betting.  

If you want to enjoy the ride of horse racing in the saddle, then take a look at their website and get the app now. By doing so, you’ll be making a more informed ‘1/ST Bet’ with more data and statistical information than ever before.