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About TwinSpires

TwinSpires is the official online wagering site of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky derby. The company enables players to wager on virtually thoroughbred, harness, and quarter horse races. It is based in Lexington, Kentucky.

TwinSpires Headquarter Location

801 Corporate Dr 2nd Floor

Lexington, Kentucky, 40503,

United States

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Latest TwinSpires News

A Horse, a Plane, a Camera, a Computer and a Viral Replay: NBC's Kentucky Derby for the Ages

May 16, 2022

If Rich Strike’s journey to finish line was vexing, the voyage of pilot Joel Martin aboard Winged Vison’s Cessna 206H was just as odd. According to the company’s founder, broadcasting Hall of Famer Bob Mikkelson, Martin and camera operator Jeff Vaughn took off from the Louisville airport that day restricted to fly no lower than 2500 feet above Churchill Downs. It was a handicap they’d been dealing with forever. Because of the airport’s proximity to the racetrack, a Cessna slowly orbiting Churchill Downs could disrupt or hinder landing patterns. That’s why the airport issued a temporary flight restriction that put tiny planes with banners at 1500 feet, helicopters at 2000 feet and Winged Vision at 2500 feet. “So we’re uuuup there,’’ Mikkelson told SportTechie. “We’ve been trying to change that for years. At least let us down for the race itself for two minutes. But no luck.’’ Fortunately, new aerial camera technology has emerged significantly over the last three years, such as fiberoptic slip rings that stabilize the gimbal and eliminate what Mikkelson calls “noise’’ in the picture. Sony, in 2019, had also come out with the pristine P50 camera, which Vaughn held as precious as a baby in his lap before the Cessna took off on Saturday. This was no ordinary SkyCam. According to Mikkelson, the camera—secured through a Gyro-Stabilized System ( GSS ) gimbal—had a “40-to-1 zoom with a two-times extender. So you can go up to 90 magnification.’’ In other words, he said, they could shoot with clarity from even 7,000 feet if they had to. “Well, until you need oxygen, I suppose,’’ Mikkelson said. The GSS gimbal securing the camera that ended up showing Rich Strike to the world. So Martin and Vaughn were in perfect position to film the race, hovering over the starting gate…until human (or animal) nature intervened. One of the horses was in, out, in, out and then back into the starting gate, leading the pilot Martin to begin his trek around the track prematurely. That left Vaughn shooting the eventual start of the race from the tail of the Cessna literally through the plane’s exhaust system. Not ideal. “Now you’re playing the game of, ‘Oh God, now what do I do? Do I go back and start doing orbits? Or do I keep going?’’’ Mikkelson said. “It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happens.’’ So we’re uuuup there. We’ve been trying to change that for years. At least let us down for the race itself for two minutes. But no luck. -- Winged Vision founder Bob Mikkelson Swiftly and gently, Martin—who’d already flown past the track—chose to do a 180-degree curve so he could reengage the horses as they rounded the first turn. “You’re sitting there just throwing the throttle in full just to keep up,’’ Mikkelson said. “It’s like the old line of skaters, the last one trying to catch up at the end.’’ Bottom line is, the Cessna caught up to the race and was in prime position when Rich Strike—who had only entered the Derby on Friday after another horse Ethereal Road scratched—began his Moses moment through the figurative Red Sea. “It was a little different flight profile than we would normally have for a race,’’ Mikkelson said of the pilot Martin. “But, as you saw, he was there when he had to be.’’ Broadcast Hall of Famer Bob Mikkelson founded Winged Vision in the 1980s. Once Rich Strike crossed the finish line, a whole other race began: the race for instant replay. The aerial cameraman Vaughn had a literal bird’s eye view of the comeback, before passing the baton to a company called Sports Media Technology ( SMT ). Akin to playing “Where’s Waldo,’’ SMT personnel had to not only decipher Rich Strike’s journey from 2500 feet above with computerized tracking, but configure arrows or pointers that would allow the audience to clearly follow Rich Strike’s fantastic finish and the front-running Epicenter’s collapse. “Every year you’re presented with a gazillion different technological advances and every year one or two of them may The director of NBC's Derby telecast Drew Esocoff make a difference,’’ Esocoff said. “If you go back over the last 30 or 40 years, it was the yellow line in football, it was the continuous clock and score, it was Skycam in football, these are things now that if you had to watch an event that you were expecting them to be at and they weren't, you’d miss it. Well, in the case of the replay that we’re talking about here, the pointers, in addition to tremendous camera work and tremendous job by the pilot getting in the perfect position, those pointers were a difference maker.’’ Either way, due to the shotgun marriage of the camera, the gimbal, the graphics and the computer technologies, NBC was able to air its aerial replay within minutes of race. Social media swooped in from there, and the network's overhead view went viral. The number of on-line views of the standard telecast were in thousands, but the numbers of the overhead view replay were in the 36 millions by Monday. That replay was beyond an 80-to-1 shot. If weather had been inclement, it couldn’t have happened—the flight would have been grounded. If it had been 2015, it maybe couldn’t have happened—the technology was still being perfected. If the pilot hadn’t made a quick turn, it couldn’t have happened—he’d have been in North Carolina. “Here’s what we had,’’ Esocoff said, “An 80-to-1 horse underneath the ride of a jockey nobody had ever heard of tracking down two of the favorites in the last 100 yards or whatever it was. And an airplane in the absolute perfect place to see it. And, in horseracing, the replay look from overhead when the action is like that…is just magical.’’     Photo credits: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images (Rich Strike); Winged Vision (Cessna camera); Winged Vision (Bob Mikkelson); NBC Sports (Drew Esocoff) Latest

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TwinSpires Rank

  • When was TwinSpires founded?

    TwinSpires was founded in 2007.

  • Where is TwinSpires's headquarters?

    TwinSpires's headquarters is located at 801 Corporate Dr, Lexington.

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