JockeyCam Live receives an overwhelming response at the prestigious Breeders’ Cup World Championships in Del Mar
Racing fans worldwide experienced a new level of spectating at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships through the online stream of live JockeyCam action. JockeyCam – a specially designed helmet camera – is a state-of-the-art device, offering a first-hand perspective in the tactical decision-making process a jockey is faced with on race day, allowing fans a foot in the stirrup sensation. The shots were used on NBC Sports’ coverage and streamed live on the Breeders’ Cup website and app.
The JockeyCam footage followed leading U.S jockey Mike Smith, who wore the 74g camera strap on his helmet in most of his Breeders’ Cup rides said: “I don’t even realise I have it on”.
With an out-of-sync body clock, JockeyCam excitement overload and a stash of American treats for the office, we caught up with EP Managing Director, Sam Fleet, who we’ve placed in the hot seat to face the EP quick-fire Q&A.
JockeyCam Live received unprecedented exposure during the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. It clearly went down a storm, you must be delighted with the response from audiences?
There was a massive JockeyCam buzz throughout the event – from the public and the press. We had great exposure as a result of some great interview spots set-up by the Breeders’ Cup team, including my first ever live news TV interview alongside Mike Smith with Erin Myers from KTLA, which was broadcast across LA and south California. We had exciting coverage from Forbes and NBC, even my Uber driver on Saturday night had seen the JockeyCam action thanks to an interview Nathan did with the local San Diego NBC station. Aston Martin sponsored the JockeyCam coverage, and they had a film crew on the Wednesday who followed us around, which was great fun – we enjoyed being the other side of the camera for once!!
How did the team set-up JockeyCam Live at Del Mar and what goes into the production behind JockeyCam Live during an event of this kind?
We did a test trip in August for the Pacific Classic at Del Mar Racecourse, this proved useful in laying a foundation for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. We set-up receive antennas around the racetrack, which picked up the jockey images and fibred them back to our RF (Radio Frequency) team at base, situated at the top of the grandstand. Back in the UK we usually work with a tracking vehicle which the antennas are attached to, however the Racecourse at Del Mar has no road for tracking vehicles so this was a new challenge and we were very pleased with the results.
We arrived in Del Mar on the Monday ahead of the weekend to give us plenty of time to set-up. Due to our testing over the summer, we managed to have everything in position for pre-event testing on Wednesday – we felt very organised and ahead of the game!!
On race day, visual director, Nathan and creative director Dave, based themselves in the jockey’s room to assist Mike Smith. They worked closely with Mike’s valet, keeping everything running as smoothly as possible behind the scenes to ensure we did not disturb his routine. I based myself in the production truck, monitoring the live pictures feed through. This feed was split to NBC for use on TV and to the online stream available worldwide – it was incredibly exciting to watch.
JockeyCam was designed especially for equestrian sports in mind. What makes JockeyCam so unique and why is it different to other head cameras out there?
Genuine POV from the perspective of the jockey, and incredibly light-weight. The point-of-view lens is just above the eye-line, so it truly captures what the jockey is seeing to provide a heightened viewing experience for the audience. The camera weights just 74g so it’s hardly noticeable, a bit like wearing an extra pair of goggles.
What was your favourite moment during your week in Del Mar?
I have two favourite moments…
First, having everything up and running on Friday – it was a great thrill to see it in action in our first Breeders’ Cup race!
Secondly, watching Mike Smith in real-time win the Juvenile Fillies on Caledonia Road is something I’ll never forget. It was awesome to cheer them home in the truck, but the reaction from people at home who were watching the live stream was overwhelming. It was great to share these shots, as normally I have watched them just in the truck with one or two engineers, but to know they could be watched live from anywhere in the world was fantastic. I was receiving messages from friends and family back home, including my dad, who lives in a small town in Cornwall, who were watching the live-stream of Mike Smith’s win. That was a very special moment.
You must have big plans for JockeyCam Live, what next?
On one level we’re always looking to improve JockeyCam and what it can deliver – we are constantly looking for technical innovations, what more can the camera do while keeping it as light-weight as possible. On a larger scale, the ambition is to have every rider wearing a live JockeyCam unit in a race, enabling viewers to ride with whoever they want to. It’d also be amazing to see JockeyCam featuring live on the big screen at racecourses. We are confident we will achieve this one day and are aiming for JockeyCam to be a normal part of spectating, allowing audiences an insight to life on the back of a racehorse.
Tell us more about Del Mar, what did you make of the town and racecourse?
Del Mar is a beautiful town and the people there are so warm, friendly and helpful. We are so grateful to the team at Del Mar racecourse for their support. We were made to feel incredibly welcome at the racecourse, behind the scenes in the production TV compound, and down at the track for morning testing with Xavier Aizpuru, and that is something I’ll never forget.
It’s a place I would love to take my family back to one day.
I’d also like to say a special thank you to our team back in the UK, working away behind the scenes on all other aspects of the EP business – they did a great job at keeping the show on the road. This really allowed us to focus on the task ahead at Del Mar, safe in the knowledge things were all good at home. This was so comforting, we really do have a great team.