What is a Horse Race?

Horse race is a sport in which a horse and rider attempt to win a prize. Horse races have been held since ancient times. Archaeological evidence shows that horse racing took place in Ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria and Arabia. It has also been a major part of mythology, including Odin’s contest with the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology. The modern sport was born in Ireland and became a worldwide phenomenon.

There are three types of people in horse racing: the crooks who dangerously drug and abuse their horses, the dupes who labor under the false assumption that horse racing is broadly fair and honest, and the masses who know that the sport is more crooked than it ought to be but still don’t do enough to fix it. Of course, most trainers, assistant trainers, jockeys, drivers, caretakers and veterinarians are honorable souls who truly love their horses and would never do anything to harm them. It is true, however, that the number of crooked horse owners and trainers is large, and that many state regulators are weak and feckless. The people who develop performance-enhancing drugs are almost always one step ahead of the officials who try to detect them, and the penalties for breaking rules are often lenient.

The stewards and patrol judges, aided by a motion-picture patrol, look for rule violations throughout the race, assessing the performances of each horse and the overall quality of the field. Then the winners are declared. The winning horse is awarded a trophy, usually a glass mug, and the jockeys receive medals for placing in the top ten.

Some of the most spectacular races are handicapped, in which a set of weights is assigned to each horse based on its previous performance, the jockeys’ weight and a number that corresponds with the horse’s speed. Then the stewards and patrol judges evaluate the performances of each horse to determine the final winner.

During the race, the jockeys wear specially designed helmets, and the horses wear special racing shoes that attach to their hooves to ensure proper contact with the track. In addition, each horse is subjected to a comprehensive prerace examination by veterinarians, which includes a thorough physical exam and an electrocardiogram.

In a typical horse race, about a dozen horses are led to the starting gate and then begin running on the track at high speeds over dirt or synthetic surfaces. The result is determined by a panel of stewards and patrol judges, whose verdict is announced shortly after the finish line has been crossed. A specialized camera records the entire race, and the film is reviewed for violations. In North America, the result is timed to the nearest one fifth of a second; elsewhere, it is recorded to the nearest hundredth of a second. The final results are then posted on the official results board and published in newspapers, although many races are not broadcast live. Occasionally, the race results are delayed for technical reasons.