Horse Racing

Game of Silks Provides Shades of Thoroughbred Ownership

As the new owner pulled up the covers in bed, she found her mind racing a bit with an unresolved question from the day: Whether to race or sell?

Such late night quandaries are a familiar feeling for many Thoroughbred owners but in this case the thoughts belong to a competitor in Game of Silks, the most advanced fantasy-type game to date to replicate the Thoroughbred ownership experience. 

Our restless owner does not campaign a living and breathing horse, but she is weighing decisions similar to real-life Thoroughbred owners. She will make the calls for her “digital twin” horse, who has the same breeding and physical traits as a real-world Thoroughbred. And like the real world, those decisions involve making a call on racing or selling. In the game, significant winnings in real dollars could be just around the corner—based on purses earned during real world races—but perhaps the better approach is to cash in now to interested buyers in this metaverse who also would pay with actual money.

Such dilemmas have been welcomed by many players this year as the first 2-year-olds are hitting the track in Game of Silks, a type of fantasy sports game with a few extra high-tech offerings that has seen some 3,000 people purchase a “horse” or “horses” for $500-$1,000 each. Another 25,000 people have expressed interest on the Game of Silks social media platforms.

For that purchase price, a player lands a random horse from the 2021 foal crop. There are no guarantees on what horse you’ll receive—they’re as random as a pack of baseball or Pokémon cards. For those interested in more specific horses, they can check to see if the digital twin of the real-life horse they fancy has been “revealed” and is owned by another Game of Silks player who might be willing to sell. Then, thanks to blockchain technology, the bidding can begin between the two players just as it might in the real world.

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“We’re able to give that (experience) of buying, selling, pinhooking, syndicating; everything that we have the potential of doing (in the real world),” said Game of Silks founder Troy Levy. “It’s not only racing and getting to the winner’s circle.” 

BH Video: Game of Silks Welcomes Industry Support

Game of Silks takes every actual Thoroughbred born since 2021 and turns them into a digital twin. Owners can design their own silks, name their racing stables, and win money based on real-life race outcomes. Once they pony up the money for their first horse, a digital trailer arrives on the screen carrying the NFT version of their Thoroughbred. Then the fun begins as players research the potential of the horse they’ve just landed, based on the race record, sales records, and breeding of its real-life counterpart.

Similar to fantasy football or other fantasy sports, success by these digital twins is determined by the real-world success of their corresponding actual Thoroughbreds. The game awards its owners purses equal to 1% of the purses earned by the corresponding, real-world horse.

“We give the look, the feel, of the real-life ownership of a racehorse into our digital, NFT, fantasy-like horse racing game,” said Levy, who also puts together real-life ownership partnerships as CEO of Tropical Racing. “They’re participating in the game just like we are in real life.”

Industry Interest

As the game educates players on the ins and outs of breeding, racing, and selling, many real-world industry players have embraced it—seeing the potential to create new fans and, down the road, new participants. 

Games such as fantasy football have helped increase interest in the NFL as fans might tune into a game between last-place teams just to see how their individual fantasy players are doing. Game of Silks has the same potential for horse racing as players may watch a Wednesday afternoon card to see how their fantasy stable is doing. 

Beyond that fan interest though, major players in horse racing see the game as a great introduction to all corners of the industry that long-term could spark interest in one day breeding, owning, or selling actual Thoroughbreds. After all, participating in horse racing as an owner—especially with today’s partnership options—is much more affordable and in-reach than buying one of the 32 NFL teams.

Duncan Taylor, senior Thoroughbred consultant at Taylor Made Farm, said the farm near Nicholasville, Ky., has tried to support creative initiatives that have the potential to bring more people to the sport, more people toward ownership. He sees the game as very much in that category.

“We’ve tried to do things to help (micro-share ownership group) MyRacehorse and now Game of Silks to help them get off the ground and going,” Taylor said. “As we know, (the industry) is not good at marketing our sport so we try to find ways we can help groups looking to market horse racing.”

Taylor Made plans to support and participate in the game and find ways to provide updates for Game of Silks players about the real-life versions of their digital twins. Levy welcomes that effort, noting that players love such updates and information.

“This visual technology has the ability to get a younger or different culture into racing through the experience of owning a race horse,” Levy said. “(Taylor Made) thought it was a good idea.”

Taylor frequently gives a brief family history relative to horses and racing that in a small way outlines the challenge for horse racing in connecting with people who do not interact with horses as much. He said his grandfather was born in 1890 when, “everyone was a horseman,” as they were needed for work and transportation. He said his father would ride a horse to school. Duncan said in his school class of eight, four of them would come to love racing—but that was largely through his own evangelism.

He said by the time his son was born in 1986, everyone wanted to “draft” a horse—in reference to the popularity of fantasy sports. Duncan Taylor sees Game of Silks as a way of capturing that interest. Taylor’s thoughts are in line with what Stephen Panus, president of The Jockey Club Media Ventures and America’s Best Racing, has found.

“We are witnessing a generational change among sports fans, from older passive fans who engage in linear entertainment, to younger, active fans who seek more immersive ways to engage with their favorite sports,” Panus said. “The Jockey Club and its companies recognize the benefits of a forward-looking approach and the opportunity to introduce our products, services, and content into new technologies and to a new generation of fans.”

That desire for an immersive product is good news for racing, which over the years has heard it’s fair share of, “It’s too complicated or difficult to understand,” as a reason new fans are not embracing the sport. Suddenly a sport that most assuredly can facilitate a deep dive has an audience looking for just that experience.

Panus notes that the NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLB, and UFC are just some of the leagues and organizations embracing the metaverse opportunity to expand their brand to attract a new, younger demographic.

NYRA Game of Silks
Photo: Game of Silks

NYRA is a partner with Game of Silks

Levy noted that it meant a lot to Game of Silks, which launched in April 2022, when the New York Racing Association, through its NYRABets advance-deposit wagering platform, co-owned by FOX Sports, became its first industry partner in December.

“Game of Silks presents its players with a fascinating and entertaining challenge by gamifying racehorse ownership in a completely new way,” said NYRA president and CEO Dave O’Rourke when the agreement was announced. “Silks captures the evolution of fan engagement and appeals to both the seasoned horseplayer and complete newcomer, which is exactly why NYRA seized the opportunity to enter this partnership. NYRA is committed to educating our fans about the Silks platform to grow the game and ultimately increase horse racing’s fan base.”

NYRA has used its broadcasts found on the FOX platforms—America’s Day at the Races and Saratoga Live—to provide Silks owners with the latest news, data, and information on the Silks metaverse. Levy can’t say enough about what it has meant to receive this industry support.

“We’re starting to get the acknowledgment and pat on the back from other participants. It’s really exciting for us,” Levy said. “Right now, knock on wood, it’s going really well.”

Levy has been amazed at the way players have invested in the game, creating their own world. Some have purchased hundreds of NFT horses and tried to syndicate them. Others are content with one or two, trying to land on the next Forte  or Flightline  .

“Most of these people are brand new to the game,” Levy said. “They’re reading every BloodHorse, every pedigree page; teaching themselves the racing game and teaching it to other people.”

Knowing that, it’s easy to see how the virtual world version of word of mouth could provide real dividends for real racing.


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