Emanuel Sprosec

Pen & paper horse racing


My personal horse racing project (without abusing the horses), which is still a work in progress, can be found here. I understand that it may not be of great interest to most people. Horse racing, in itself, is a complex endeavor.

Exploring horse racing

It began as a simple pen and paper game, utilizing two dice and basic rules, during the Covid pandemic as a personal pastime. However, I soon found myself deeply immersed in the world of horse racing. Over the past few weeks, I have spent a significant amount of time watching horse race recordings on YouTube, despite my general disapproval of the treatment of animals in the industry. I have also delved into numerous documentaries about the history and stories of Triple Crown winners.

Lost in a new world

My interest in horse racing expanded even further. I started listening to hours of audiobooks about the sport during my bus and train journeys. I began reading not only the biographies of horses but also those of famous jockeys and even horse racing announcers, each with their own unique stories. It is fascinating how much information is available on this sport, covering various aspects such as breeding, training and racing. I have even read three books, totaling around 1600 pages, encompassing the complete history of Thoroughbred racing, with detailed accounts of past horses, their journeys to success, their owners, the histories of major race tracks and the sport's rise and decline in Europe, the UK and the US during the world wars (where millions of horses, including racehorses, tragically lost their lives).

Reaching this level of knowledge has its rewards. Sitting in the park, basking in the sun and reading about the intense, closely contested races between two horses in the 1970s or any other era is truly captivating, offering a rich blend of content, narrative flow and style.

Now I have a problem

However, this newfound knowledge has also posed challenges for my simple game because "I know more" now. Horse racing can be complex for outsiders, not due to the actual mechanics or types of races, but because of the myriad possibilities that can unfold and the influence of various factors on the horses and their conditions. A horse that seems like a sure winner may not always come out on top. Despite all the advancements in technology and improvements, horse racing and breeding remain somewhat unpredictable, requiring an element of luck. As an owner, you may hope for a first-place finish, but ultimately, you have to watch and see what unfolds. Moreover, there are differences between countries. Each country has its own terminology, classifications and standards for race track conditions. There is no singular "racing rule book" that governs all aspects of the sport. The combinations of races and classes are vast and varied.

Stay easy

Finally, you discover that you have two options: to create a very, very simple game without any of these details, or to develop a complex game that aims to closely simulate a real sport. However, this latter option makes it difficult to simply play the game. There is also a third option, which is now my decision: I will utilize all of the collected details from the past few months as a framework, but I will blend them together to create my own fictional horse race. This race will incorporate some elements from reality but will not attempt to recreate the real world entirely. Bringing in the "real" parts, such as words and facts, would require adding more and more elements, which may not align with the expectations of people who have experience or interest in this type of sport. Additionally, incorporating all these elements would make the game complex, as it would involve numerous calculations for 50 or more different values, which is not desirable for a game that involves just a pen, two dice and some paper.

No rush

This also entails going back to the drawing board and reorganizing the entire setup and concept. In addition, I will trim down the content on the website for the game and instead create a comprehensive PDF file that includes all the necessary details, along with sheets containing horse, jockey, track and condition tables, which can be downloaded as a complete package. This was my original plan when I embarked on this project, but as is often the case, sometimes we veer away from the original idea and become engrossed in the details. Nevertheless, the enjoyable aspect is that this kind of "tinkering" brings a lot of fun and since there are no personal deadlines or timelines to adhere to, I can work on it when I'm in the right mood. If not, I can focus on something else. It's a straightforward approach that still keeps the process enjoyable.

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Last update: 23.05.2023