Horse racing is the sport in which humans compete against horses on a racetrack. It is one of the world’s oldest and most enduring sports, a tradition spanning millennia that has been practiced in cultures throughout the globe. Some critics claim that the sport is inhumane and corrupted by drug abuse and overbreeding, while others believe that the “Sport of Kings” represents the pinnacle of achievement for its competitors and is a noble endeavor worth supporting.
A horse race is a competition in which two or more horses are driven at high speed by their jockeys through a series of obstacles on a track. The horse that completes the course first wins. The horses are often trained and bred specifically for this purpose. They must be fast enough to win, but also agile and well-coordinated to navigate a variety of obstacles. Many of these hurdles are man-made and are located along the sides of the track. Others are natural, including trees and fences. The horses’ legs are protected by specially designed shoes, called hoof plates or bar shoes. The shoe may be shod with aluminum to help protect an injured foot, or simply for aesthetic reasons.
The earliest races were match races, in which the owners provided the prize money, and bets were placed by disinterested third parties. These agreements were recorded by a person known as the keeper of the match book at Newmarket in England, who began publishing An Historical List of All the Horse-Matches Run (1729).
In modern times, horse racing is a lucrative industry with millions of dollars wagered on each race. It is a multibillion-dollar business that relies on a complex network of breeders, trainers and stables, track operators, and the players who bet on the sport. Unlike most sports, it is not regulated by federal law, but the rules of each individual race are standardized by the American Horse Council.
Because the sport requires such a physically demanding physical specimen, horses are subjected to a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injuries and enhance performance. This is especially true of Thoroughbreds, who are renowned for their ability to run at top speed over long distances. Unfortunately, these athletes often bleed from their lungs during the race, a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In order to combat this, they are given a drug that reduces bleeding in their lungs. The drugs also mask pain, so that if the horse is injured or becomes tired, it can be stopped without suffering significant loss of speed. This allows the trainer to save his horse and still make a profit on the race. This is known as a “call-up.” A call-up also prevents the jockey from losing his job if the horse loses. This is a major reason why some races are canceled during a rainy day. This is particularly true of prestigious events, such as the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes for colts and the Coaching Club American Oaks for fillies.