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UT Junior Lets Horse Race iPhone App Out of the Gate

Published: November 04, 2010
 Molly McGill ’12 pitched her idea for a Breeders' Cup iPhone application to the president of the prestigious horse racing organization while walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge this past April.

She had gone to Australia with her aunt, who serves on the California Horse Racing Board, for a racing conference and spent some time with Greg Avioli, president of Breeders' Cup Ltd. When he asked what her plans were for the future, McGill said she was having a tough time choosing between her love for technology (she works at the Apple store in Brandon, FL) and her love of horses.

He suggested she merge the two, so she pitched her idea for the iPhone app. Avioli told her to put a proposal together, which led to a six-week summer internship at the Breeders’ Cup New York office.

McGill researched app developers and helped create the free service that allows users to watch live races from the iPhone and iPad, get automatic news updates, access contenders for each race and winners from last year, see a video vault of every Breeders’ Cup race since 1984, get information on tickets and seating charts and even play a trivia game that McGill wrote.

“Through the Breeders’ Cup App, Molly is applying cutting-edge technology to make a famous horse racing event more accessible to fans and to the public,” said Kenneth Knapp , an assistant professor of information and technology management and McGill’s statistics teacher. “She is at the intersection of horse racing, business and popular technology.”

During her summer internship, the staff discovered McGill’s penchant for movie-making, and they asked her to help edit promotional videos , one of which will play during 27th running of the Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 5 and 6.

“It is the craziest thing,” said McGill, an international business management major. “It all happened while walking to breakfast over the Sydney Bridge.”

McGill grew up in San Diego near the Del Mar Racetrack in a family where the women love horses and the men love motorcycles. She competed in barrel racing and showed a California state champion horse. One of her favorite things while living at home was to get on her Quarter Horse Thoroughbred, El Niño, and take off down the beach.

“It was one of those things that no matter what kind of day I was having, I could get on my horse and be happy,” said McGill.

Since living in Tampa, she has missed the time spent with El Niño. But she is keeping good company. This weekend she will attend the 27th running of the Breeders' Cup World Championships at the Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. She’ll be wielding a video camera, shooting footage she’ll edit into clips later.

One of the highlights, though, will be witnessing one Thoroughbred potentially make history. Zenyatta will be competing in her 20th race, perhaps for her 20th win, making her what some say isn’t one of the best race horses in history, but the best race horse in history.

“Seeing a horse like Zenyatta race is a once in a lifetime thing,” said McGill. “I love everything about this.”

McGill said this experience is giving her real-world applications of the concepts she is studying in all of her UT classes. She always dreamed of working with Thoroughbred horse racing but she never imagined getting the chance to work with the Breeders' Cup, which she said is starting at the top. She’s been asked to return to the New York office next summer and even has been contacted by another Thoroughbred company to help develop their iPhone app.

In the swirl of excitement, McGill is just trying to take it all in. And for now, her sight is set on Saturday, and the chance to witness history in the making.

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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