There are lots of ways that sporting events end that bring fans to their feet. In baseball a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to lead your team to victory has teammates and fans jumping for joy. In basketball that last second shot that goes in goes in for the win is the buzzer beater. In horse racing the photo finish can have fans and owners scratching their heads in wonder as they wait to find out if their horse’s whisker crossed the finish line first.
Today’s Dixiana Bourbon Stakes, a qualifying race for the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf, ended in a photo finish that involved four horses. As the horses came down the home stretch “War of Will” was leading by more than three lengths but was quickly caught by “Salvator Mundi” and “Henley’s Joy”. As they passed the scoreboard, a fourth horse “Current” sprinted up the outside and suddenly any one of four horses had a chance to win. As they reached the finish line it was almost impossible to tell who had won the race and with every angle that they showed on replay the TV commentators seemed to change their mind. After many minutes it was finally announced that “Current” was the winner of the race and the still photo that was taken at the finish line showed that he literally won by a nostril.
Prior to the use of cameras, a placing judge was positioned at the finish line and that person had the ultimate say in who won the race. With many races ending in a near dead heat it was very difficult for that person to accurately determine the true winner of some races. Finally, in 1878 a series of cameras were set up a the finish line that were triggered to take a series of simultaneous photos once a trip wire had been activated. The first documented use of a camera for a photo finish was in 1881 but as betting on racing became more serious they realized that better technology needed to be created that would be more accurate and also develop film quickly. In 1937 a strip camera was invented that the image it produced showed different points in time at a fixed location instead of showing different locations at a fixed point in time. This device was first used in 1941 in California at Del Mar Turf Club. The new camera was a success in reassuring gamblers they were betting on fair outcomes, and helped horse racing maintain its popularity in American culture.
I have had a few close finishes in my SIM career and have even found myself yelling at the computer screen as my horse crossed the line with thoughts that he had won…… then to be disappointed to know he finished second as his head bobbed up instead of down as he crossed the finish line. Has there ever been a tie in a SIM race I wonder? Is there a photo finish feature?
It is definitely an exciting way to end a race…if the horse you bet on or own is the one to cross that line first.