Established by the Irish Government under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is a commercial semi-state body responsible for the day to day operation and promotion of Horse Racing in Ireland and for the promotion and development of the Irish Thoroughbred industry.

The RÁS system developed in collaboration  with Etain has delivered a secure and modern platform which has enabled HRI to fundamentally improve administration of Irish horse racing; it has provided our clients with a much more accessible and intuitive system which has transformed their user experience. We now have a system that can be accessed anywhere and at any time, the ETAIN team are great to work with.

Fiona Feeney, HRI IT Program Manager

The Business Problem

After a number of years successfully working together on the Client Accounts Online system, in the July of 2014 Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) engaged Etain to design and develop a new cloud based racing system. Featuring a central information dashboard that would be accessible by all HRI external and internal user groups.
From HRI ‘Super-Users’ to the horse owners, trainers and jockeys themselves, this system would service a varied and expansive audience, all with very specific needs. HRI required that the dashboard provide these different users with a tailored set of software tools built around their daily business administration requirements, providing a more informative and user friendly experience to replace their existing legacy system.

The Transformation

The design of HRI’s administrative portal needed to be a central hub for all internal and external users, providing existing and additional content in a clear and simple structure while reflecting the core values of the organisation. Additionally this would incorporate the previously developed Client Accounts Online and its related database.
The overarching goal was to achieve a system that was both highly functional and intuitive, streamlining everything from the entry of horses into races both home and away, making declarations and the management of riders and accounts, while at the same time being user-centric, informative and modern.


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Key factors included the need for the system to work responsively across Mobile, Tablet and Desktop devices while providing an upgrade of existing functionality that would allow data input across the variety of devices, as well as providing portal access to a whole suite of administrative functions the system would need to keep users informed and alert them to issues requiring their attention.
When users log in to the new secure area they would be greeted by a user focused dashboard with tailored content to suit their user group requirements as well as online account management, payment facilities and a prize money calculator. Content was designed to be accessible across all platforms, while meeting Accessibility standards.

Functions & Features

  • Racing Administration – manage horse racing entries, declarations, registrations, passport applications & more
  • Notifications Tray – receive updates on applications and other personalised alerts
  • Interchangeable Personas – switch between multiple user profile at touch of a button
  • Navigation bar – favourite pages and pop-out links for easy access
  • Breadcrumbs – trace your actions back one, two or three steps
  • Prize Money Calculator – estimate potential innings with the online calculator
  • Manage Accounts Online – manage finances from processing payments online to ‘making a request’
  • Online Help – Access online Help and walk-through videos via the navigation bar.


Our Approach

Through a series of client inclusive workshops together we analysed HRI’s existing business systems, allowing us to gather valuable data from legacy content that helped inform the design team and steer key functionality decisions. This included the formulation of user personas designed to represent the actual users and their individual objectives. This helped guide the User Experience team in a way that effectively shaped the interaction design process.
A process of reverse engineering encompassed the observation and interview of users in groups so that we could determine initial feedback on the legacy software system, identifying essentially what was working well and what wasn’t. This also revealed the features HRI wanted to see implemented that would complement their future business goals.
The data and feedback from these workshops was used to work up wireframe concepts and working prototypes prior to preliminary user acceptance testing. Visual styling and basic functionality was tested early on to ensure that the application of the HRI branding didn’t interfere with usability.


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Risks and challenges

Given the volume of data involved, complexity of functional variations per user and the sheer expanse of users requiring access to this system, Etain had to ensure that the needs of the users, both internal and external were robust enough to meet with the utmost scrutiny.

With security being of paramount importance to HRI given the sensitive nature of the information, and the media profile of Horse Racing Ireland clients, we implemented a security framework based on industry best practise in line with OWASP principles. Extensive application level security measures were implemented, including SSL encryption, SSL authentication, secure login with password encryption, user invoked password management, secure session management and session timeout. 

With horse racing a year round sport, it was essential that there would be minimal disruption to the administration of the sport both internally and externally on going ‘live’. While the system was designed to be as intuitive as possible and easy to follow regardless of technical ability, it was decided that a range of supporting items be created to mitigate the risk of the transition affecting the entries and management of pre-existing administration.

The supporting collateral included an interactive PowerPoint presentation for use in roadshows prior to going ‘live’, and an in-depth user manual. The User Manual was commissioned to take external users (Owners, Trainers, Jockeys and more) through each possible action on desktop, tablet and mobile devices, ensuring a smooth transition from old system into new.
Featuring over 200 detailed and illustrated pages, the External User Manual features step by step instructions on the full range of capabilities from how to Return a Horse in Training to calculating potential prize money and processing payments. Additionally a series of walk-through videos were commissioned that demonstrated working examples of 10 key processes.

Outcome & Benefits

Etain adopted a user-centred design approach, placing the goals of the user at the centre of the design process rather than merely attempting to satisfy a features checklist. This resulted in the efficient development of an easy to use, responsively designed web application built on the racing administration system delivers value and delights the people who use it.

Following over half a million lines of code, 100 wireframe designs, 13 technical documents, 13 functional specifications documents, 2 Technical Architects, 2 Business Analysts, 6 Developers and 17 months of design and development, HRI’s Racing Administration System (RÁS) was born servicing approximately 16,000 users.

Do you need a custom software solution? Is your organisation ready to undertake a Digital Transformation? If you’d like to discuss a custom project or simply want to know more feel free to call us on 028 90 87 2222 or drop us an email using the contact form below. 

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