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Horse Racing Takes a Step Into the Future – Excelitas Qioptiq Films With Thermal Cameras By Julian Nettlefold

Using thermal cameras to film sport has become a feature of sports such as Formula One for many years. The thermal cameras can show the hot spots on the drivers, their cars and engines, brakes and tyres, giving viewers a better insight into the stresses and strains of the cars and their drivers

Now Excelitas Qioptiq, a world leader in thermal cameras has brought this technology to racing.

This initiative sprung from a conversation at the SSAFA Chepstow Raceday in November 2016, between Chepstow, Excelitas Qioptiq and BATTLESPACE. At the RoA AGM this year Nick Rust, discussed the concept with Julian Nettlefold, Editor of BATTLESPACE. He then helped Excelitas Qioptiq facilitate a trial of the concept to film race horses in action and to show edited highlights of the racing on live TV, once the concept has been approved. Rupert Arnold of the National Trainers Federation (NTF) was also consulted.

Michael Owen very kindly allowed Excelitas Qioptiq to film his horses during training at Manor House Stables, Michael Owen’s Training establishment. Last week Excelitas Qioptiq went to Manor House Stables and filmed Michael Owen’s horses in action.

Manor House Stables 

Manor House Stables is a thoroughbred horse racing establishment situated in Cheshire, England from where racehorse trainer Tom Dascombe currently operates.

The stable, converted from a cattle barn by Michael Owen and his wife Louise, began operating as a training establishment in March 2007 with 30 horses in training.

In July 2009, Betfair co-founder Andrew Black was approached to become joint owner of Manor House Stables LLP. The completion of this deal enabled the company to secure the services of successful racehorse trainer Tom Dascombe, who as of March 2010 has over 100 horses in training at the stable.

On 14 September 2014 Brown Panther recorded the stable’s first Group 1 victory in the Irish St Leger.

Excelitas Qioptiq Filming

Paul Wright of Excelitas Qioptiq said, “We set up at the top of the gallop at Manor House Stables at the suggestion of Colin Gorman, the Assistant Trainer. We had a small generator for power and set up the following three cameras on a single tripod.”

The cameras used were:

Ocelot, a long range daylight camera

PanthIR, a Long Wave Infrared camera with an uncooled sensor

JaguIR, a Mid Wave Infrared camera with a HOT cooled sensor

“The three cameras were mounted so that they were all capable of viewing the same object but the ranges were set slightly differently so that we had slightly different perspectives. The weather was really good and we were able to film the horses from the start of their canter up the gallop until they passed us and crested the hill, a distance of about a kilometre. A few minutes later we were able to record the horses, one ridden by Michael Owen himself, being walked back past us and descending the hill back to the stables. Also playing a significant part in the day was Colin’s small Jack Russell who checked all the equipment and crew were to her satisfaction on more than one occasion. The images of the horses in infrared really show the warmth of the large muscle groups of the animals after exercise and the heat around the horse nose and eyes.”

“Everyone that we dealt with at Manor House Stables was friendly and welcoming, we were given freedom to go where we liked on site. It is refreshing to be working at an establishment where everybody smiles and greets you in a welcoming manner.”

The Future

Now that trial has been concluded, Excelitas Qioptiq look forward to working with the BHA, the NTF and the TV companies to prove the concept during racing, giving viewers and racegoers a new dimension into the power which drives a racehorse to compete on the track.



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