A horse race is a contest in which horses are run by jockeys at high speeds over a set course, jumping every hurdle (if present) to complete the race. Prize money is awarded to the first, second, and third place finishers.
Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing, there’s a world of drug abuse, horrific injuries, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. Until now, this dark side of the sport has been hidden from view by an industry that prioritizes profits over ethics and animal welfare. But a recently released video produced by PETA has allowed people to see the truth for themselves.
The sport of horse racing is a global enterprise. The top thoroughbreds compete in races around the world, from major events such as the Dubai World Cup and Breeders’ Cup to small local races with only a few hundred spectators. Horses are bred and raised on farms in many countries, with some of the best being sold for breeding and/or racing. The globalization of horse racing has helped to grow the sport’s popularity and revenues, but it also poses ethical challenges for a sport that relies on public funding and gambling.
Historically, horse races were match races between two or at most three horses, with owners providing the purse and bettors making a simple wager on who would win. The winner was declared if the horse whose bettors supported won, and agreements were recorded by disinterested parties, who became known as keepers of the match book. One of the first was John Cheny, who began publishing An Historical List of All Matches Run (1729).
In the early years of the sport, horses were trained to be as fast as possible by putting them through a regimen that included long, brutal workouts on dirt or sand tracks and frequent bouts of galloping. This intense training often resulted in broken bones and a variety of other ailments. In addition to physical punishment, some trainers used a variety of illegal drugs to help their charges achieve maximum speed.
Scientists have tried to use scientific models to explain why certain horses perform better than others, but they are not always successful. A new study published in PLOS ONE suggests that it’s not a good idea to race a horse too hard because doing so will leave it exhausted by the end of the race. Instead, trainers should aim for a strong start and be sure that the horse is conditioned to race over a longer distance.
Other terms used in horse racing include oiled, on the bit, and on the muscle. Oiling involves administering mineral oil through a nasogastric tube to relieve gas and prevent blockage. On the bit refers to a horse that is eager to run, and on the muscle indicates a fit and well-conditioned horse. A wheel is a type of exotic wager that uses a key horse or horses in several different, but not all, possible combinations of exotic bets.