Release the Data: Chorus Edition

You may or may not have seen the Release the Data post by Dan at @thorotrends, an open letter to Equibase imploring them to essentially offer historical data for free. Paulick jumped aboard the #releasethedata train by usurping Thorotrend’s traffic posting something about it at Paulick Report.

The original post, while welcome, well-reasoned and appropriately addressed to Equibase, if not a little long, failed to mention that the topic, racing data being made available programmatically available, is one that’s been discussed far and wide as long ago as 2005. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in his post. For example, I think Equibase can and should make their SOME of their racing data available for free to anyone via APIs and make other data more accessible by making it affordable and available via APIs. Your opinion may vary.

In the past when these points have been raised, they’ve been met with “but the historical data is freely available, as PDF charts.” or “you can just use Stats Central.” Yes, that’s true and that’s sort of the point. Stat-heads like @thorotrends can’t do any fancy number crunching with PDFs or Stats Central and groovy programmers like @robinhowlett can’t make apps with PDFs/Stats Central.

Quibbling on specific points aside, with the help of Jessica Chapel I’ve collected all the previous instances I could find on this topic to help strengthen the point and add to the chorus, so to speak. If some brave soul wanted to wade through the various forum sites and compile discussions I’d be happy to add them.

So, without further blather, here’s everything I could find on the topic of “releasing the data.”

Update: Also read this post by Jessica at Railbird

Did you post something about freeing racing data or have a link to add! Send to me at @exactamundo!

Blog Posts (be sure to read the comment threads where available!):

Jessica Chapel in 2005:
“Racing must recognize soon the power of the medium and figure out how to use it to the sport’s advantage. I’m talking about making more information easily available online (look at all the stats, summaries, and player biographies baseball provides on, making it easier for new fans and the curious to find a way into playing the horses (this means going beyond just past performance chart tutorials and freeing the quantities of historic data hidden behind paywalls), and embracing blogs and RSS.”

Jessica Chapel in 2007:
“What the industry also hasn’t figured out is the benefit of making charts and statistics widely, easily, and freely available. Baseball has been pushed along by the growth of fantasy games, as well as the game’s stats nerds, and the obsessive and intelligent analysis of baseball data in both pursuits can be credited with — I think it’s fair to argue — keeping the sport in the mainstream even during during dark days such as the 1994 strike and the ongoing steroids scandal. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to conclude that racing could be similarly buoyed if it removed the hassle of finding any information at all about races run more than a week ago.”

Jessica Chapel in 2008:
“Free data and historical stats, that’s the way to build the fan base.”

Jessica Chapel in 2009:
“If you look back to 1990 and see what information was available and how it was made available, we’ve accomplished a lot,” Equibase president Hank Zeitlen tells Paulick, and that might be true — but it’s not enough.

Ray Paulick in 2010:
“Can you imagine how dead Fantasy Football would be in college dormitories if the NFL protected its statistical information the way Equibase does?”

Matt Gardner 2012:
“Even if you don’t believe that the sabermetric revolution in baseball is everything it’s made out to be, I think most would admit that it’s provided a fascinating way to look at the game that never existed before. Think of how many very smart people have used statistical analysis to change how fans look at the game. Could the same thing happen to horse racing if it were easier for its most die-hard fans to analyze the sport further?”