A horse race is a competition between two or more horses, generally over a set distance on a flat surface. The horse that crosses the finish line first wins the race. A horse’s speed and stamina are the primary determining factors in the outcome of a race. The history of horse racing has seen it evolve from a primitive contest of speed or endurance to an enormous global industry, but its basic concept remains unchanged. The sport is governed by strict rules and is watched by thousands of bettors who wager vast sums of money.
Horses are not born to run, but they can be trained to outrun their opponents. Most are whipped to keep them going even when they’re exhausted and in pain, and to respond to a jockey’s signal to break into a sprint or a sudden acceleration. The pounding of the lower legs, especially on oval tracks, is particularly brutal for horses and can strain ligaments, tendons, and joints. Mongolian Groom’s hind lower legs were wrapped in blue bandages, and he wore a heavy blue hood to keep him concentrated on the track ahead and a shadow roll to reduce his tendency to startle at the dark shadows that can appear on the ground.
When betting on a race, the bettors must take into account the horses’ abilities and recent performances in similar races to determine the odds. A horse with the lowest odds is considered an underlay, and a horse with high odds is an overlay. Bettors can also place exotic wagers, such as parlays and pick 3.
The modernization of horse races began in the United Kingdom with the introduction of the Derby in 1875 and the Preakness Stakes in 1873, which make up the Triple Crown, a feat achieved by only 13 horses in the history of American racing. England and France followed suit with their own versions of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Grand Prix de Paris.
During this period of rapid growth, horse racing became a popular entertainment and a major source of gambling revenue for both the wealthy and the poor. But behind the romanticized facade of a sleek and powerful Thoroughbred running for its life is a world of drugs, injuries, and death.
Many racehorses are pushed to the limit and subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal substances designed to mask injuries and artificially enhance performance. The most common hazing practice involves administering powerful painkillers to mask the horse’s soreness, which can cause them to bleed from their lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage). They are also given steroids and blood-doping agents, such as Lasix, and other medications that may or may not be illegal in their countries. Racing officials often can’t keep up with the flood of new drugs and have little ability to test them effectively.
While the national rulebooks vary slightly, most are based on the original British horseracing authority’s rulebook. In the case of a photo finish, where the winning horse is impossible to decide with the naked eye, stewards study a photograph of the race and declare a winner.