What is a Horse Race?

horse race

A horse race is a form of competition between horses for the purpose of wagering money. Bettors may place a wager on the winner of a race, or on an exacta (picking the first and second horse in order) or a quinella (picking the first, second, and third horses). Some races are open to all bettors, while others have specialized categories, such as “winners only.”

Horse racing is an ancient sport. There is evidence that humans have betted on horse races since 3500 BCE. It became a professional industry in the 17th century, when the British established organized racing. The sport is popular with people of all social classes, and the majority of races are open to the public. The races are usually held in large stadiums, and bettors can make multiple types of wagers. These include win, place, and show, as well as parlays (picking the winners of two or more consecutive races) and exotics such as daily doubles, trifectas, and pick sixes.

In the United States, horse racing is regulated by the federal Interstate Wagering Agreement Act of 1978 and by state laws. There are approximately 1,200 licensed tracks in the country. These facilities have a variety of amenities for spectators, including restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. The most famous race in the United States is the Kentucky Derby, which is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. The race is a Grade I event on the American Horse Racing Association (AHRA) schedule and has a purse of $2 million, making it the richest horse race in North America.

Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. Horses are forced to sprint, often under the threat of whips and illegal electric-shock devices, at speeds so high that they are prone to a variety of illnesses, from broken legs and tendons to hemorrhages in their lungs.

Despite recent improvements, the horse-racing industry is facing serious challenges. As horsemen and -women, trainers, veterinarians, breeders, owners, and fans continue to grow more disillusioned with the way racing is conducted, it’s increasingly clear that reform is needed. The only question now is whether the sport will heed this call for change. Or will it cling to its past and inevitably fade into obscurity?