What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a competitive event in which horses are led by jockeys around a track and then run at top speed to finish a predetermined distance. The race is timed to the nearest one fifth of a second, and the winner is declared after a careful inspection of all the finishing horses by stewards and patrol judges. The stewards and judges look for horse that may have been injured during the course of the race or if the winner did not win by a fair margin. The stewards also check the condition of the horse and the cleanliness of the stalls.

The death of Eight Belles and that of the even more beloved Medina Spirit, both three-year-old fillies, in the midst of America’s most prestigious horse race, has sparked a long overdue reckoning about the brutality of horse racing. Despite some improvements in training, racing is still plagued by broken legs and catastrophic heart attacks, and horses routinely die under the exhilarating physical stress of performance. The death of these two champions, along with the dozens of others who have died this year and in recent years, has prompted a call for reform from animal rights activists and the general public.

In the bowels of the grandstand at Santa Anita, the people are betting men, many of them Latino and Chinese, who gather to stare at banks of TV screens, their faces buried in the dark of their jackets, as beautiful horses gallop just outside in the sunshine. Bettors watch a horse’s coat in the walking ring before the race, looking for signs that it is bright and rippling with sweat—if not, bettors are likely to take a pass.

The horse race begins when the horses are led to the starting gate, which is electrically operated at most tracks. The stewards and patrol judges, aided by a moving picture patrol, inspect the horses to make sure they are healthy and that no rules have been violated. The horses are then paraded past the stewards for inspection before they begin to run. The stewards and patrol judges are constantly scanning the course for horses that have fallen or been pulled out of the race, and if any rule violations are discovered the winner is disqualified.

The succession “horse race” pits several recognized candidates against each other in an overt contest to become the company’s next CEO, with the goal being to select the best candidate. Proponents argue that such an approach shows confidence in the company’s management and leadership development processes, as well as its ability to produce high performers. However, some directors and governance observers are sensitive to increasing scrutiny of boardroom behavior and are concerned that an extended horse race will harm business momentum. A company that is successful with this strategy cultivates a culture in which people embrace the competition and believe that the best leader will emerge from it. A number of companies, including General Electric and Procter & Gamble, have used this approach successfully.