Capture Blog

It’s Kentucky Derby Time — And I Have Your Winning Ticket!

The hats are feathered and the seersucker suits are pressed — it’s Derbytime in the Ville! There’s really no better two weeks in Louisville, Ky., than the two before the annual “Run for the Roses,” the Kentucky Derby. If you don’t have this event on your bucket list, I suggest you put it there!

I moved to Louisville from Kansas City in 2001, and didn’t really understand what all the get-up was about. But once you spend a day at the track, dolled up with your friends, drinking mint juleps and lilies (don’t worry, recipes below), you’ll be hooked.

Oh, and there’s horses.

The city is aglow as if we’re hosting the Olympics. What most people don’t know is the track actually opens the week before the Derby, so there are four-to-five days of racing before the fastest two minutes in sports actually arrives on Saturday evening.

In 2016, Derby attendance to see Nyquist take the roses was its second highest on record at 167,227 — 2015 was the highest, with 3,000 more watching American Pharaoh begin his road to the Triple Crown. I was actually there that day, and lucky enough to score some pretty amazing seats to see him finish big.


Everywhere in Louisville right now (and outta-towners in my Inbox) are saying, “Who ya got?”

For a gambler like myself, I particularly enjoy this weekend because it offers great betting pools and huge opportunities to hit it big. Not everyday you get to bet a race with 20 horses. While Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are early-odds favorites — they aren’t going to cash me a ticket worth having. I need to know where the real money is — the trifectas and superfectas! Now we’re talking!

While Nyquist was fun to watch last year — his 2-1 odds weren’t that fun to bet. I haven’t made my trip to “the backside of Churchill Downs” yet this year to hear the whispers of who’s hot and who’s not, but I have something better … artificial swarm intelligence.


I hadn’t heard much about it either, but it works. And since we’re pretty stoked about our predictive capabilities here at Capture, I thought I better get a handle on all types of predictions — and this swarm stuff? Well, it’s really cool.

Last year, the TechRepublic Editorial Department (headquartered in Louisville) challenged the company, Unanimous A.I. (UAI), to choose the top four horses in the Derby (what’s called a superfecta bet) utilizing their swarm technology platform.

UAI’s platform is called UAU, and takes the power of crowds making a decision — all at once and in real time — and combines it with AI algorithms to make its predictions. In real-time, subjects log into their platform and are given a question at the same time. For 60 seconds, they touch their screen and move their icon to what they think is the correct answer. And the cool thing is, they can see what everyone else is doing too!

The basic idea here is that various people of the group will bring different knowledge to the question and influence each other in order to arrive at a correct decision — one that is more accurate than any individual prediction.

What swarm prediction looked like on UAU for Derby 2016: 100 users had 60 seconds to push their compass to the group’s chosen answer. And as a group they chose four horses.

And sure enough — they hit the superfecta.

The 540-1 superfecta wasn’t hit by one major handicapper, but it was nailed by a group of strangers moving horseshoe icons around a screen.

Can they do it again?

This year, TechRepublic has challenged UAI to do it again, and Churchill Downs is getting involved by offering to pull together a set of the world’s best horseracing analysts and handicappers to make up the swarm that will predict the 2017 Derby.

This all went down at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Want to know the results? Me too!

  1. Classic Empire #14
  2. McCracken #15
  3. Irish War Cry #17
  4. Always Dreaming #5

Now, if you’re the gambling type — might be worth five minutes to set-up your TwinSpires account online or call that crazy Uncle Eddie in the Bronx and throw down this bet:

“Churchill Downs, Race 12, $2 Superfecta on horses #14, #15, #17, #5.” 

A couple notes before you make this bet:

Any of the horses can scratch before the race. And if there’s enough time, a new horse can be added to the field. The # of the silk would then belong to another horse. Something to check before you place your bet.

If you’d like to cushion your bet just a bit (incase the swarm was slightly off that day), you can “box” your bets so that the horses can hit the board in any order, not in just one order. A $2 Superfecta-box will run you $48. You could also just go with the top three and do a $2 Trifecta-box and spend only $12. But I digress …

You can find out more about the Techrepublic challenge here.

While you’ll have no problems findings articles on how it’s accurately picked the Oscar winners or Derby horses, could Swarm AI actually change the world? Democracy? Healthcare? Higher Education? Newsweek had a brief article on this last year, explaining the history or Swarm AI and some potential uses of its predictions.

How do we think this relates to the needs of higher education and enrollment management? Well, Swarm AI involves the combination of human intelligence and artificial intelligence/machine learning. Higher education institutions need smart, capable people (like those here at Capture) to inform and build machine-learning algorithms, and then to interpret predictions in ways that are useful and actionable. That is our strength, and that is what we have to offer the world: smart people and smart predictions.

Speaking of smart people and smart predictions, everyone is a professional handicapper this Saturday for the most exciting two minutes in sports. Lucky for us, with Swarm AI we already know who’s going to win. Hope someone tells the horses. Happy Derby!

P.S. When we win, we’re gonna need to toast with a mint julep or lilly. Grab your favorite bourbon (Bulleit 10-year is a favorite around our office) or vodka (KetelOne being mine) and check out two great recipes here.

By Ellen Stubbs, Vice President of Marketing, Capture Higher Ed

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