A horse race is a competition in which a jockey on a horse competes against other riders and horses to win prize money. Generally speaking, in order to win a horse race, the horse must travel the course, leap any required hurdles or obstacles, and cross the finish line before all of the other riders and horses do. The winning horse and rider are rewarded with prize money, with second and third place horses receiving less. In the event of a dead heat, the winner of a horse race is determined by examining a snapshot taken just after all of the horses have crossed the finish line.
The practice of racing horses has been in existence for a very long time, with the earliest recorded accounts dating back to ancient Greece around 700 to 40 B.C. In the following centuries, horse racing spread to neighboring countries including China, Persia, and Arabia. Today, horse races are held on both public and private tracks all over the world.
While some people criticize the sport of horse racing as being inhumane, others believe that the sport is a thrilling and engaging experience that has stood the test of time. Regardless of what side you are on, there is no denying that horse racing has had a major impact on our culture and history.
Behind the romanticized facade of horse racing is a very different world. Pushed to their limits, horses are forced to sprint – often under the threat of whips and illegal electric shock devices – at speeds so fast that they frequently sustain injuries such as fractured legs and bleed from their lungs (a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage). They are also given cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that mask injuries and artificially enhance performance.
Despite the fact that most horse races cost the equivalent of a used car, prize money is jacked up through taxpayer subsidies and casino cash. This gives owners an incentive to run horses that have no business being on the track and to push them past their limits. And as the tragic deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit have demonstrated, these risks can be deadly.
In order to help keep the field level, claiming races are written to allow horses that are not quite fast enough to qualify for higher levels to compete with each other. These races are commonly referred to as “claiming” races, and they provide both a risk-reward scenario for horsemen and an effective checks-and-balances system for wagering on the sport.
Besides claiming races, there are several other types of horse races that can be found on the calendar. One of these is the auxiliary starting gate, which is utilized when the number of entries for a particular race exceeds the capacity of the main starting gates. Another type of horse race is a claiming allowance race, which is open to horses that have won a certain number of claiming races or maiden, claiming, or starter allowance races.