A horse race is a form of formal competition in which horses are ridden over a set course. The winners are awarded prizes. In the United States, betting on horses is regulated by the federal government. Some states have legalized the sport, while others have banned it, and some have imposed restrictions on the number of races and the types of wagers allowed.
The sport has a long tradition, dating back to 1000 B.C.E., when Greeks created a game involving horses connected to two-wheeled carts or chariots. The sport became a formal contest of skill when men mounted the horses, becoming known as jockeys. The riders were tasked with controlling the horses and making sure they follow a prescribed route over the racecourse, jumping every obstacle if present. In order to win, the jockey had to cross the finish line in first place.
Today, horse racing takes place on a variety of surfaces, including dirt, turf, and artificial tracks. The sport is a multimillion-dollar industry, and it has attracted some of the world’s most beautiful horses. The excitement and glamour of a horse race draws thousands to grandstands, where they cheer for their favorite horse. In the past, bettors — whether hardcore daily bettors or casual spectators — often rooted for a specific horse by name. For example, Seabiscuit was so popular that he had his own anthem and was cheered as “Number Three.”
Most modern races are held over distances of either 1 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) or 3/8 mile (1 kilometer). The longest races are contested by elite horses called champions, whose pedigree, training, and performance have earned them high ratings. The best horses compete in events with the largest purses. The weights, or handicaps, that a horse must carry in these races are determined by its ability and other factors, such as age and gender.
Many horses are injured during the course of a race, and many die from such injuries. The grueling exercise causes many to bleed from their lungs, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). This bleeding can also cause shock and respiratory failure in some horses, which usually results in the animal being euthanized.
Horses undergo thorough medical examinations before each race and are given medications to mask pain, increase their stamina, and improve their performance. However, many of these drugs have dangerous side effects and can lead to a wide range of health problems in the animals. These problems can include gastrointestinal upsets, heart disease, liver and kidney damage, nervous disorders, and osteoarthritis.
Although the sport has a long history of corruption, a few honest people run successful horse racing businesses. Some crooks use illegal and even deadly substances to drug their horses. Others do not use illegal substances but are unable to make enough money to pay their bills, so they rely on illegal bookmakers and other shady practices. Then there are those in the middle, who try to balance running a business with acting in an ethical manner.