A horse race is a game in which humans wager money on the outcome of a competition between trained horses. The winner is the one who crosses the finish line first and collects the prize money, which may be as little as a dollar or as much as several million dollars. The horse race can be a formal contest, with rules and judges, or it can be merely an informal betting game. Prize money for horse races was once awarded only to the winner, but this system was replaced in 1984 with a computerized pari-mutuel betting system and on-course television coverage. The introduction of these improvements greatly increased both turnover and attendance at the track.
The sport of horse racing is a multi-billion dollar industry. Spectators watch the action in grandstands or at private boxes. In many countries there are also off-track betting outlets where bettors can place wagers without the supervision of track personnel. In addition, the breeding and training of horses is a lucrative business. Exceptional horses can earn millions of dollars in races and even more in the lucrative stud services they provide to other breeders.
For a thoroughbred to be successful, it must be fast, healthy and athletic. The horses are often given a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs to increase their speed, mask injuries and improve their performance. In addition, some horses are injected with a drug called Lasix (marked on the racing form with a boldface “L”), which is designed to reduce exercise-induced pulmonary bleeding.
This bleeding is caused when a horse exerts itself hard, usually when it is tired. In order to prevent it, most horses are injected with Lasix before every race. The drug works by inhibiting the blood’s ability to clot, thereby decreasing the amount of bleeding that occurs during hard running. In the case of a horse that is bled, the jockey and trainer must take time off to allow the horse to recover.
Despite the controversies and criticisms of horse racing, there is no doubt that winning times in horse races have improved considerably over the years. The improvement is due in part to common factors such as better nutrition and, in the case of human athletes, improvements in equipment and training techniques. Nevertheless, it is tempting to speculate that the improvement in winning times is attributable to some more esoteric factors, especially those associated with the inherent physical capacity of both man and horse.