A horse race is a type of competitive running for prize money in which horses are ridden by jockeys. It is a popular sport with millions of fans worldwide. The sport has a long and distinguished history dating back to ancient Greece, where it was part of the Olympic Games. Today, it is a multi-billion dollar industry that draws on a rich heritage of traditions and technological advancements to attract and sustain large crowds and generate significant revenue.

The term horse race is also used to refer to a close contest or battle between two rivals in other fields, such as political contests. In these cases, the use of the term suggests that one party or another is attempting to win over the opposition by means of tactics such as mudslinging, name calling and attack ads. As such, the term is frequently used to describe nail-biting and close races in general.

In the United States, horse racing is an extremely popular sport and the country’s second most lucrative gambling activity, with a total annual gross of $3.6 billion. However, the sport faces many challenges including declining interest from new would-be fans and scandals over safety and doping issues.

While a bet on a horse to win is the most common way to wager, many people place bets on horses to finish either first or second and on horses to show, which means they will finish in the top three. Bets to show usually pay out lower than those on win, but are a safer choice.

A horse race starts when the gate opens and all of the horses are led into a paddock, or area at the track where they will be saddled up. The jockeys then ride the horses to the starting line, which is electrically operated at most tracks. Once the race begins, a team of stewards and patrol judges, aided by a photographic finish judging system, look for any rule violations. Once the horses have crossed the finish line, a steward or an official will declare the winning horse.

Despite significant improvements in veterinary care and other technological advancements, horse racing continues to cause severe physical stress on horses and can be very dangerous for them. Sadly, the deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit have brought renewed attention to the issue. Unfortunately, equine welfare is still not considered a priority by the majority of the industry. Often, those who love the sport blow off the concerns of animal rights activists and the public at large while continuing to fail to protect the horses under their care. This trend needs to change before it’s too late. Unless this happens, the next tragedy could be the last one.

What is a Horse Race?