A horse race is a contest in which horses of different sizes and abilities compete to win a prize. The first two or three finishers, called winners, earn a portion of the overall monetary prize, known as the purse. The remaining entrants are paid a lesser amount of the total prize money. Many types of horse races are held around the world, including endurance and steeplechase events. Several horse breeds are used in racing, with some bred for speed and others for stamina. Those that are specialized for one type of race have specific names, such as sprinters and long-distance horses. In addition, a race may be handicapped, meaning the weight that a horse must carry in order to win is adjusted according to its age or other factors.
The sport is dangerous for both the horses and their riders, who are known as jockeys. The horses are forced to run at high speeds, which can cause falls and injuries. They are also often raced before they are fully mature, a practice that can lead to developmental disorders such as cracked leg bones and hooves. The horses’ immense physical stress is compounded by the fact that they are constantly under pressure to win.
Although it is impossible to know the precise number of horses that die in races each year, there is a general consensus that there are too many. Many of these deaths are caused by serious injuries, including breakdowns. Other common causes of death include heat stroke and traumatic brain injury. Many breakdowns are the result of a trainer or owner pushing a horse too far beyond its limits. Because most owners have little more than a short-term financial stake in their thoroughbreds, they have no incentive to care for them or to stop running them when they are no longer profitable.
Some critics of the sport contend that horse racing is inhumane and should be abolished, while others point out that it offers the best hope for the survival of the species. A few years ago, Seabiscuit brought an unprecedented level of excitement and popular attention to horse racing. Many fans, both the hardcore daily ones and the occasional visitors, connected with him and rooted for his success. The crowds that gathered in the grandstands cheered the horses by name, not just by their numbers.
Glossary of Terms
Blinkers: Eye equipment that limits a horse’s vision in order to help it concentrate on running and reduce distraction. Clubhouse Turn: The first turn of a race that begins on the frontstretch/homestretch. Clocker: A person who times and rates workouts. Consolation: The payout in a Pick Six or other multi-race wager that players receive even though they did not complete a full winning ticket. long pastern (bones): The long bone on the back of the fetlock that joins with the short bone in the hoof. short pastern (bones): The shorter of the two bones in a fetlock.