The Kentucky Derby may be the best-known stakes race occurring in the equestrian world this weekend, but it is hardly the only one.
On Zed Run, a digital horse racing platform, many such events occur every hour, seven days a week. Owners pay little entry fees — typically between $2 and $15 — to run their steeds against others for prize money.
You can’t sit in the stands sipping mint juleps while they sprint by.
However unlike the vast majority of NFTs — that correspond to GIFs, pictures and videos that can be stored as slogans or sold for profit — each digital horse represents what Zed Run’s founders call a”breathing NFT.”
“A breathing NFT is one which has its own unique DNA,” said Roman Tirone, the head of partnerships at Virtually Human, the Australian studio that created Zed Run. “It may breed, has a bloodline, has a life of its own. It races, it’s genes it passes on, and it lives on an algorithm no two horses are exactly the same.”
Individuals — most of them crypto enthusiasts — are rushing to snap up the digital horses, which arrive on Zed Run’s website as limited-edition drops; a number of them have fetched higher amounts than living steeds. One participant sold a stable full of digital racehorses for $252,000. Another got $125,000 to get one racehorse. Thus far, more than 11,000 digital horses have been offered on the stage.
Alex Taub, a tech start-up founder in Miami, has purchased 48 of them. “Many NFTs, you purchase them and sell them, and that is the way you make money,” Mr. Taub, 33, said. “With Zed, you can make money on your own NFT by racing or breeding.”
His steady is still climbing. He bred an electronic horse for his 5-year-old daughter. “She comes home from school and would like to race it,” he said. “She named her horse Gemstone, and Gemstone had two babies named Rainbows and Sparkles.”
Each race has a 12-horse limit, the lineups of which can be predicated on the qualities and past performance of every horse. The site uses an algorithm which runs 10,000 random outcomes and chooses one as the race condition.
The races take place around the clock and are streamed on both Zed Run’s Twitch station along with the organization’s website. Zed Run also operates a Discord server, in which people can follow race results, trade tips and share third-party tools for analyzing data.
“There are people who are becoming miniature influencers in this ecosystem ,” said Yair Altmark, a venture capitalist from New York that has spent over $300,000 on digital horses. “And horses that are getting credibility on these streams and vulnerability on the Discord are making a name for themselves”
He expects making much of his money back. “It would not surprise me if some of these horses are investing for about $ 1 million in a few months,” Mr. Altmark, 23, said,”since these horses can generate a loony return in your investment.” It costs anywhere from a few dollars to around $50 to enter a buy race, and you can race a horse that an unlimited number of occasions.
They believed that horse racing was fertile ground for innovation.
Owning and racing actual horses could be prohibitively costly. “There are cheap horses and superior horses,” he said.
Renee Russo, a 25-year-old entrepreneur in New York, said that racing her electronic horse, Glacial Planes, feels more like playing a video game than taking a bet. “I have this horse, I’m not betting on a different horse,” she explained,”so that I feel as that I have absolute control of where it’s going, who it is racing and who I want to breed it with.”
As with all investments, there is reason for caution here. Should Zed Run turn out to be a fad, these digital horses could be rendered worthless