Horse racing is a fast-paced sport where the winner is whoever crosses the finish line first. The race may include jumps and other obstacles that add to the difficulty of the race. In addition to the speed, a horse race requires the riders to have excellent judgment and skill as they coax advantage from their mounts.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when and where horse racing was established, but it is known that it was first popularized at the Greek Olympic Games in 700 to 40 B.C. The sport later spread to neighboring countries and throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. It then moved to America, where organized racing began with the British occupation of New Amsterdam in 1664.
A horse race begins with a number of horses lining up in their own starting gates, which are horizontal to the track and open at the chosen start time. Once the gate opens, the horses will begin to run as hard as possible while saving some energy for the end of the race, which is called the home stretch. The horse whose nose passes the finish line first is declared the winner.
In betting, to be “in the money” means to win a race and collect a portion of the total purse. A horse that is in the money is typically a favorite.
Horse races are often divided into groups based on age and gender in order to create a competitive balance. Among the highest tier of races are the Group and Grade 1 races. Generally, a horse has to be at least four-years-old to be eligible to race in a Group or Grade 1 race.
In the early days of horse racing, trainers used drugs to help their horses perform better. Powerful painkillers designed for humans, anti-inflammatories, antipsychotics, growth hormones and blood doping were all common. The rules for doping were loose, and officials lacked the ability to detect many of the medications. Some trainers were also able to move from one jurisdiction to another without penalty.
Today, horse races are much safer than in the past. However, the sport is still battling the perception that it is a dangerous and corrupt activity. In addition, fewer and fewer Americans are watching horse races. The decline is largely due to other gambling activities being legalized in states, as well as scandals involving the safety and doping of horses. The sport has never been as popular as it was in the 1920s and 1930s. Many potential customers are turned off by the scandals, and others are simply put off by the high cost of wagering on horse races.