Modern technology signals the death of the dead-heat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2011, 12:00am


Did last Tuesday's Melbourne Cup flag the beginning of the end for the dead-heat in horse racing?

When Dunaden and Red Cadeaux fought out the tightest finish in 150 years of Melbourne Cups, the naked eye and even slow motion replays would have left it at a dead-heat but modern technology was less forgiving.

Half a length across the line is around 0.09 seconds, so the margin separating the two Cup horses was more like 1/1000th of that.

Mind-boggling indeed but, with the high-resolution photo magnified four times, the judge was able to find a fresh margin of victory - a pixel. Why would it stop there?

Perhaps if it was any closer, the magnification might have to be 10 times, or more, but eventually, there will be a margin found. After all, a pixel is made of more, smaller, units called bits.

There is probably a commonsense argument somewhere that enough is enough but then joint winners are not the stuff of which Melbourne Cups are made, and that is probably true of any of the real majors.

Sharing the win lacks the 'we-nearly-didn't-win' exultation of the victors, the pathos of the 'oh-so-nearlys', and history wants a neat package for its records anyway.

Then there are things like the post-race speeches.

They tend to drag on long enough at the Melbourne Cup, where the Australian Governor-General has a time-honoured role putting a crowd of 100,000 to sleep. (Apparently this year's effort was a world beater, too, lacking only a jeroboam of champagne under Quentin Bryce's belt to be right up there with the 1977 edition - a day that will live in infamy as Kerr's slur.) Imagine having that as well as two speeches from the winning trainers, jockeys and owners.

No, if they can be separated, they will be and no-one blocks the advance of technology to make that task even easier in the future - the dead-heat is dead.