The World of Horse Racing

horse race

Horse races are contests of speed and stamina in which a jockey rides a horse around a circuit of track or over obstacles such as fences and hurdles. The first horse to cross the finish line is declared the winner of the race. Horse racing is a sport of national and international importance. It has a long and distinguished history. Archaeological records show that it was practiced in ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria and Arabia. It also played an important part in myth and legend, such as the contest between the steeds of Odin and Hrungnir in Norse mythology.

There are essentially three types of people in horse racing: the crooks who dangerously drug and otherwise abuse their horses, those who labor under a fantasy that the industry is broadly fair and honest, and the masses in the middle, who know it’s more crooked than it ought to be but won’t do all they can to fix it. The problem is that the crooks and dupes are more or less evenly divided, leaving the honorable horsemen and women in the middle — who don’t have as much power to affect change as they should — struggling against enormous odds to keep the game honest.

The vast majority of horse races are won by a relatively small number of horses. The rest are dead heats, or contests decided by photo finishes, in which the stewards study a photograph of the finish to determine which horse crossed the line first. These finishes are sometimes a bit fuzzy, and in some cases, as is the case of this year’s Melbourne Cup, it may not be possible to tell with certainty who won the race.

In many countries, horse races are run over a wide range of distances, from short sprint races to long endurance races such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe or Dubai World Cup. The prestigious flat races are generally run over distances in the middle of this spectrum, combining speed with stamina. To maximize their chances of winning, most racehorses are pushed beyond the limits of their natural abilities. They are often injected with cocktails of legal and illegal drugs, including the diuretic Lasix, noted on the racing form by a boldface “L.” The drug is prescribed to prevent pulmonary bleeding caused by hard running.

One peculiar aspect of horse racing is that, unlike most other major sports leagues in the United States, each state has its own set of rules and standards for how horses are treated, even when they travel between tracks. This creates a patchwork of regulations that can vary from state to state, and punishments for violations of these rules vary as well. For instance, trainers and owners in some states are banned from racing entirely if they are caught using whips on horses, while in others, such use is permissible if the whips are not too abrasive or excessive. Despite these differences, most horse racing rules are similar and were originally written by the British horseracing authority.