A horse race is a sport that involves the betting of money on horses in a competition. The horses can either be ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies and drivers. A few countries have a significant horse racing industry, including the United States, Britain, and France. The most famous horse races include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and other classics in Europe, the Melbourne Cup in Australia, the Caulfield Cup and Sydney Cup in New Zealand, and the Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in South America. During a race, horses are forced to run at speeds that often lead to injuries and breakdowns. Horses are also subjected to training methods that are abusive and sometimes illegal. Growing awareness of these issues has led to improvements in the industry, but many people still find horse racing abhorrent and are turning away from it in droves.
In the early days of horse racing, match contests between two or three horses were common. As the sport evolved, pressure from spectators prompted events with larger fields of runners. The length of a race varied depending on custom, but eventually one-heat dash racing became the rule and speed became an important factor in winning. The ability to gain a few feet quickly and efficiently became vital, and a rider’s skill in using his whip was crucial.
During the race, stewards, or judges, watch the competitors for any violations of rules. Jockeys must weigh in before the race and parade their mounts in front of stewards for inspection. Saliva and urine samples are also taken from the horses to check for banned substances. A jockey can be disqualified if he violates any rules during the course of a race.
Before a race, bettors study a horse’s coat in the walking ring to see how bright it is and to gauge its attitude. A dull coat may indicate that the horse is frightened or angry and that it will not perform well in the race. A bright coat, however, can signify a horse that is ready to run. A sulky and a well-suited jockey can also make a horse more likely to win.
A horse is considered a “handicap” when it is assigned a weight that is higher or lower than the amount that other horses in the race carry. The goal is to render the horses as nearly equal as possible in their performance, a concept known as “racing form.” Handicaps can be set by a central authority where horse racing is controlled or by individual tracks. A claiming race is one where the horses can be purchased at a certain price and is an exception to the classic concept that the best horse should win. Famous claiming races include the Oaks and Derby in America.