The coverage of South Australian horse racing has improved in leaps and bounds over the past year, with Racing.com giving the state more exposure than ever before and a vehicle to put the focus firmly on our racing daily.
That coverage will continue to improve, with the arrival of Thoroughbred Racing Productions on January 1 to add its ongoing technical excellence to the local racing industry.
In fact, TRP is actually providing two vehicles - literally - to make sure SA gets the best coverage available. These outside broadcast or OB vehicles provide state of the art technology servicing all metropolitan, provincial and country racing.
Chief executive Grant Hicks says TRP has been servicing the industry in Victoria for 10 years and will bring the same expertise to SA racing. Everyone from racing officials to rank and file punters will benefit from a range of products that takes race coverage well beyond a one track shot of a race being run.
TRP started in 2008 when race broadcaster TVN wanted to produce its own racing vision. It is jointly owned by the Victoria Racing Club, Melbourne Racing Club, Moonee Valley Racing Club and Country Racing Victoria, and SA is about to reap the benefits of a decade's worth of technology improvements.
"In 10 years, we've purchased a fleet of high definition outside broadcast trucks and improved the technology to allow the sort of racing coverage punters want while also committing to improving many of the special features expected in major carnivals," Hicks says.
"We introduced the extreme slo-mo camera on the finish line because people wanted to see where their horse finished, whether it was first or last. We introduced virtual lines, which are markers on the tracks showing the 100, 200 and 300 metre marks as well as the club logo. We introduced tighter shots to go with the broader image to provide more colour into the broadcast. Probably the most popular innovation we introduced was the inside tracking vehicle."
In Victoria alone, TRP covers 525 meetings per year and has the ability to broadcast seven meetings in the one day. The company is much more than just the production facility to bring racing footage into punters' homes, it also provides industry footage such as on-course stewards' vision. This allows stewards to watch races from more angles than ever, in extreme slow motion and close up - something punters are beginning to appreciate as well.
"Change is very hard to accept," Hicks says. "Everyone wants to see the coverage of a race a certain way and we have to accommodate the need to see where every horse is in a race while also striving to improve the quality of the product.
"The biggest change in the years we've been doing this is the amount of people who now watch racing on their mobile phones and devices. We've become specialists in delivering the product to so many people in so many different formats as quickly as possible.
"These changes will continue to develop. We've been trialling the broadcast feeds to give you on your mobile phone the opportunity to watch individual cameras or stewards footage so you can decide what you want to watch. If you don't like the extreme close ups during a race, you can simply choose to get the broader angles."
Now all of that cutting edge technology is changing the look of SA racing as well - from the stewards' room to the home and the mobile device. To ensure the highest standards for the SA move, TRP has purpose-built two state of the art outside broadcast trucks that will accommodate the entire state. The larger of the two trucks takes care of all metro and some provincial meetings, while the second truck will be covering thousands of kilometres travelling all over the state, from the South-East to the West Coast, to provide country racing with new vision.
"This wouldn't be happening without the combined effort of Thoroughbred Racing SA, Racing.com and TRP," he says. "There's been a lot of effort put into ensuring that, whether it's a Saturday meeting at Morphettville or a Friday meeting at Naracoorte, the standard is of equally high quality.
"We may be a Melbourne-based company but that doesn't mean the South Australian product will be coming out of Melbourne. On the contrary, the company has set up a fully-functioning satellite operation based at Morphettville Racecourse. We've been very fortunate to secure the services of Maryann Eime, who has years of experience in production and has been working closely with the TRP team to ensure the smoothest possible transition.
"We made a conscious decision from the day we signed on to provide content for SA to ensure that we would use local people where possible. As it turns out, we are South Australian people. The Victorian staff have only been involved with the set up, we haven't relocated anyone and we never intended that we would. It was important to us, and to the SA industry, that we didn't just move in and take over. And the fact is, there was no need to do that. The SA staff are experts at what they do and now they have access to best equipment available.
"It's been very enjoyable meeting all the South Australian stakeholders and participants, who seem universally positive about the changes. There's often a lot of pushback when change comes but I have to say that SA people have been very welcoming. I haven't seen any of that famous Victoria-SA rivalry. I think everyone agrees this move is a great move for SA racing. Everybody wins."