The chase to save horse racing – and what NFTs mean for horses

David Harrington
April 14, 2023
“We’re creating a strong emotional link between the digital twin owners and the real horse” — Constantin Garreau, founder, Stables

Horse racing is an ageing industry. Stables wants to completely reimagine the narrative by connecting real horses to fan-owned NFTs. David Harrington speaks to founder Constantin Garreau about attracting new audiences, growing a community, and forging experiences that last for decades.

Basketball was the first sport to really embrace web3 in the United States through NBA Top Shot, but Constantin Garreau wants horseracing to be first out of the gates in Europe. And by bridging the gap between physical horse racing and the blockchain, Stables is creating all new forms of engagement that promise to reach new fans well beyond the two to three minutes of an actual race.

Born from a creative challenge by French horse wagering giant PMU, Stables aims to elevate the thrill of racing by transforming it into a captivating, immersive experience. Powered by NFTs, Stables lets users own digital counterparts of real-life racehorses and passionately track their careers, forging a unique bond that lasts infinitely longer than the fleeting moments of a single race.

“The average fan in horse racing audiences is 49 years old,” explains Constantin. “We wanted to explore territories like the future of gaming and technology.”

“Traditionally, someone would log into a betting platform and only perceive each horse as a set of financial data” — Constantin Garreau, founder, Stables.

For founder Constantin and the Stables team, it’s not about the surface-level hype of introducing NFTs, gamification, and web3. They want to completely reimagine the horse-racing narrative, and, in the process, attract new audiences with a community and experiences that last for decades.

The horse racing industry is in a state of flux. Existing fans are ageing, and new fans are increasingly opting for different sports. That’s where Stables comes in. Using a combination of gamification, the blockchain, and NFTs, Stables plans to make horse racing more attractive for new fans, while also giving longtime fans a new way to enjoy their favourite pastime.

Stables was incubated by PMU, Europe's largest horse wagering company, and began as an internal project in a company-wide hackathon. “The topic of attracting new audiences was actually a last-minute addition,” Constantin recalls. “What we came up with over a two-day sprint was a project and community, incorporating blockchain in a way that completely changes how fans interact with the horses and races themselves.”

Constantin emphasises that Stables has no plans to ever become a wagering platform like its parent company. Rather, his vision is to create a way for fans to be involved with the sport on a day-to-day basis, whether their horse wins, comes dead last, or doesn’t even race.

“Traditionally, someone would log into a betting platform and only perceive each horse as a set of financial data,” Constantin explains. “They may wager on a horse and have no idea what it’s like in real life, and there’s no attachment. Then after the race is over, the excitement ends until the next one begins.”

Stables is telling the story in a completely different way, where fans can mint an NFT that’s linked to a real-life horse throughout its entire career. The idea is to engage fans over the long term, providing unique experiences that keeps them engaged, whether their horse wins or loses.

By allowing users to purchase, own, and trade virtual horses that are represented by NFTs, Stables is providing a new way for fans to engage with the sport. And it’s already begun: the company sold 6,666 virtual horse NFTs last month, and has agreements with the French horse racing governing body, France Galop, to link those NFTs to real horses in the near future. But as Constantin explains, owners won’t have to wait until race day to play the game.

“It’s important to give users the right mix of physical and digital flavours.”

Constantin Garreau, founder, Stables

“The horse your NFT is linked to may only race once every week or two,” he says. “And it may come in last, so that’s not a very cool experience if winning is the only incentive. While you’re linked to the success of the horse through its entire career, you can also compete in virtual races, maintain your horse in its stable, and equip it with power-up gear.”

Like a modern version of Nintendogs or Tamagotchi, Stables creates a bond between the owner and the digital animal, incentivising them to log in, engage, and play. But, unlike these early games, what truly keeps the fans coming back is their connection to the horse beyond the screen.

“Being a known company or having good IP isn’t enough.”

— Constantin Garreau, founder, Stables

Instead of a solely digital asset, Stables wants to give owners a connection with a real horse and directly connect them to real life races, of which France Galop organises over 7,000 per year. Owners of the NFT will also be invited to see their horse race in person, and will potentially get to meet them up close.

“Being a known company or having good IP isn’t enough to attract and retain players,” Constantin notes. “You have to build unique experiences, which is why we think it’s important to give users the right mix of physical and digital flavours. Owners will get exclusive invites to see their horse in action as part of the value proposition.”

“We would love to replicate the entire race experience in an immersive virtual space,” says Constantin. “Owners might get the exclusive opportunity to experience their horse racing in real-time with something like AR goggles linked to a live-feed camera mounted on the horse or jockey.”

“We would love to replicate the entire race experience in an immersive virtual space” — Constantin Garreau, founder, Stables.

For now, the team is planning to launch an immersive virtual environment, where owners can walk around their personal stable of horses and interact with them. Daily quests in the Stables Discord keep NFT holders busy as they compete and play to earn skins, items, and power-ups that either boost their own horse during daily virtual races or handicap their competitors. In addition, Stables plans to introduce a breeding function, allowing owners to produce their own virtual horses that are bred from the original ones.

“All of these things we’re doing are with the goal of creating a strong emotional link between the digital twin owners and the real horse,” Constantin says. “Even if an owner’s horse performs poorly, the experience should be so cool that they don’t ever want to sell the NFT, even if they’re offered double what they paid for it.”

Stables is taking on a bold challenge in reimagining a centuries-old sport in which ownership has traditionally been an exclusive privilege. With NFTs, their vision is to bring ownership to anyone who wants it. If Constantin and the Stables team can deliver that vision, they will not only put the sport on a more sustainable footing, but they'll set a roadmap for all industries like theirs to follow.

Last month, Stables sold 6,666 virtual horse NFTs.
Last month, Stables sold 6,666 virtual horse NFTs.
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David is an independent writer working at the intersection of decentralised technology, culture, and commerce. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Forbes Technology Council and Tech in Asia, and he loves telling unique stories about the transformative potential of web3. His current interests include decentralised science, NFT sports collectibles, and creator-owned economies.