A horse race is a sport in which people bet on the outcome of a contest between two or more horses. The horse racing industry is one of the most lucrative in the world, generating billions of dollars each year. The sport has many different types of races, with the most prestigious events taking place in France (including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), England, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina. The rules of horse racing vary from country to country, with the sport regulated by state and national bodies.
Most horse races are won by the first runner to cross the finish line, with second and third place winners receiving prize money. The earliest races were match races between two horses, but pressure from the public eventually led to the creation of larger events with more runners. Typically, horses are given equal weights in order to ensure fairness, but allowances are made for younger horses and female horses running against male horses. The most prestigious races are known as conditions races and feature the biggest purses.
A horse’s performance during a race is determined by its ability, but also by the track, the position of the starting gate (or barrier), sex, training, and jockey. The horse must be able to handle the physical demands of running at high speeds, as well as the psychological stress associated with competing in a long-distance race. The race procedure begins when the jockeys, or riders, weigh in and report to the paddock, a section of the track where the horses are saddled. The horses then parade past the stewards for inspection. Once the stewards approve the horses, the starter signals for them to begin the race.
After the race, a team of veterinarians examines each horse for signs of injury or disease. If a horse is found to be injured, it may be euthanized or sold at auction in order to save the owner further veterinary fees. The most common injuries are strained tendons and hairline fractures. These are hard to diagnose, and can quickly go from minor to irreparable during the next workout or race.
Behind the romanticized facade of horse racing is a multibillion-dollar industry rife with drug abuse, injuries, and gruesome breakdowns. Despite efforts to revive interest in the sport after World War II, it continues to struggle to compete with major professional and college sports for spectators. In 2000, only 1 to 2 percent of Americans ranked horse racing as their favorite sport. Many blame the sport’s failure to embrace television, which could have helped to bring in a new generation of fans. In addition, horse racing’s image is hurt by scandals and the recurring occurrence of animal deaths at its tracks.