It’s off to the races, one click at a time. Introducing what could be the perfect opportunity for racetrack-loving Saratogians to get in on the Crypto craze: blockchain-based horse racing. Virtually Human Studio’s virtual horse racing platform, Zed Run, allows users to place bets around the clock, and even outright own the horses as “breathable” NFTs (non-fungible tokens, such as the digital art selling for millions that you’ve been reading about), meaning they have attributes that allow them to change over time. “A breathing NFT is one that has its own unique DNA,” Roman Tirone, the head of partnerships at Virtually Human Studio (VHS), recently told The New York Times. “It can breed, has a bloodline, has a life of its own. It races, it has genes it passes on, and it lives on an algorithm, so no two horses are the same.”
Now, hold your horses—just how viable is digital racing, with nary a jockey in sight to boot? Some heavy hitters in the tech space (TCG Capital Management, A16Z) are betting on the company; VHS raised some $20 million in investment funding last year. “It’s one of the world’s oldest sports, and it has remained unchanged since the dawn of time,” co-founder Chris Laurent told The Times when describing the opportunity for innovation in the digital space.
Horse racing fans, too, are betting big on the platform: Inside the brand’s first three years, it’s already amassed more than 125,000 connected users, who pony up anywhere from $130 to $45,000 per digital horse. With that price point, anyone can have a horse in this race. (More than $3 million worth of horses has already been sold.)
While the rush of the race at a physical track is hard to duplicate, Zed Run developers took care to replicate it as closely as they could digitally: “We used real-life Thoroughbreds as reference points and began designing our Zed racehorses so they perfectly encapsulated the behavior and nuances of their real-life counterparts,” the company noted on Medium.
Running on blockchain technology, the platform lets racing enthusiasts breed, sell, and bet on their own virtual horses. Zed Run “moves horse racing from a sport dictated by physical limitations to one unbound and virtual,” VHS co-founder Rob Salha has said. “This means more races, more owners, more spectators, more upside to all that want to be involved. It makes horse racing a 24/7 sport. And we think there’s an opportunity to bring this same concept to many areas of sports and entertainment far beyond horse racing.” Expect a wild ride.