CEO Pierce Dargan of Equine MediRecord in the Winner's Circle at Keeneland during this year's Breeders' Cup.
Right now, a host of apps around the globe are attempting to help combat the coronavirus. It is just another step along the digital highway that is in constant redevelopment. Even short-term impacts may not be fully understood for a generation. Other fields have felt a tectonic shift.
Thoroughbred racing is once again one of those industries that saw major strides when it comes to technology. A nexus of activity is revolutionizing record-keeping for the purposes of tracking medication use and is assisting with the adherence to rules and regulations.
Pierce Dargan is the CEO of Equine MediRecord, an Irish-based company, whose app is helping everyone from owners and trainers to racing organizations become compliant with ease. He and his team are at the forefront of a campaign that emphasizes transparency and good governance.
Dargan joined me for a chat about his recent trip to Lexington, Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships where his app took center stage. I wanted to ask him about how it was received, the people that he encountered, and of course, the conditions under COVID-19.
J.N. Campbell: Pierce, thanks for joining me today, and I want to welcome you back for another discussion.
Pierce Dargan: Thank you for having me. Great to speak with you again.
J.N. Campbell: Back in October I interviewed you just before you were making your trip to Keeneland for this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Simply put, what was that like?
Pierce Dargan: This was my second time attending the Breeders' Cup; I was fortunate enough to travel over last year. This year was obviously very different without the crowds, but it was also my first in a work capacity. It was wonderful getting around, and meeting all of the people who work so hard behind the scenes to make this event possible. It was great to get a better understanding of what it takes to get horses from around the world to compete on a level playing field.
J.N. Campbell: Talk about your intentions going in? What were some of your goals?
Pierce Dargan: Our ultimate goal is to make everything easier for everyone involved, trainers, vets, and regulators. If our system could make it easier for everyone to understand the regulatory requirements for the Breeders' Cup; by easier I mean, to submit their documentation and to make it clearer for those running the event to track and process that documentation. That was a win for us.
Under a normal year, reducing last minute checks at the racetrack is important. This year with COVID reducing contact between individuals, it allowed so much to be done digitally. This was a major plus. The moment was also a great opportunity to introduce our system to some of the top trainers across the world. While many in Europe know about us, we're still very new in the US. Here, we had some of the very best all in one location who were using a version of our system.
J.N. Campbell: How were the COVID protocols at Keeneland? Did that pose any challenges during your stay?
Pierce Dargan: The protocols as you can imagine were very strict given the international nature of the event. When I arrived, I was tested to ensure I was clear to enter the premises at Keeneland. This had to be confirmed with proof of this negative test result through a system which I had to present every time I entered the racetrack. Wearing of masks was also enforced while on the premises at Keeneland. Of course, it made it a bit more complicated as people can't see your face, and you couldn't spend extended periods of time with them, but it was easy enough to adapt to the rules.
J.N. Campbell: Talk a little about the role you played in the BC events? How was the app received? Whom did you meet and will those contacts be productive in the future?
Pierce Dargan: The system we built specifically for Breeders Cup was a base where all the different regulatory bodies involved, from the racetrack, to Breeders' Cup, to state regulators, to have the ability to see the correct information was submitted. And for the trainers, it was one portal to input the necessary documentation.
Day-to-day, we did our best to aid those running the competition keep everything on track and ensure everyone knew how the system worked. We also did some work helping to coordinate with participants to submit missing documents or pursue further information.
It seems to have gone well! We've received some brilliant feedback from Dora Delgado, Breeders’ Cup Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Officer who said, “The Equine MediRecord system is a major breakthrough in providing the latest and most comprehensive medical and testing records for all participants in this year’s World Championships.”
Just with the nature of an event like this, you get a chance to meet some of the top vets and trainers in the US and around the world. We saw some familiar faces from Europe. It was brilliant to see James Fanshawe, who was one of our first customers in the UK and who has publicly endorsed us, win his first Breeders' Cup Race with his first Breeders' Cup runner!
Overall, it is a great start to our first year operating in the US. It has been more difficult than we expected (we had imagined we'd be able to meet many more people in person!). Still, the Breeders' Cup enabled us to put some faces to names that we've been speaking to for some time. I'm sure as things begin picking up next year, we can look forward to familiar faces as we continue our plan to expand across the US.
J.N. Campbell: Overall, what were the takeaways from the experience and how will you apply what you learned moving forward? In future BC meetings? Where will you go from here?
Pierce Dargan: It was really impressive seeing an international meeting come together from behind the scenes. On top of that it is another level when you have competitors coming in from around the world during a pandemic. You have different regulatory frameworks and competitors with different languages, and fortunately this plays into our strengths due to our international presence with Japanese, French, and other experts on hand, if help was needed.
We're glad that the Breeders' Cup gave our system such strong endorsement. While those involved got all the documentation together to allow the horses to race, we've already thought of ways we can make the process smoother for Del Mar. We can't wait to see everyone back enjoying world-class racing in the California sun next year!
Beyond the Breeders' Cup we're focusing ourselves on California at the moment, as the new regulations around Trainer medical record keeping mean our system is the right solution at the right time. In the meantime, we are engaging with a number of race meetings, tracks, and countries around the world. They have seen our strong performance with the Breeders' Cup and are eager to examine the benefits we can bring them. It was a very interesting year. We're really looking forward to seeing what the future can bring. It's always a pleasure that our work means we're able to enjoy some great racing along the way!
J.N. Campbell: Pierce, those are some exciting developments. Look forward to hearing about 2021 as Equine MediRecord continues to grow. Best of luck!
Pierce Dargan: Appreciate it and thanks for having me!