A horse race is a sport in which horses compete to finish first over a set distance of ground, jumping any required fences or hurdles and crossing the finishing line before all other competitors. Horses have been bred to run and race since ancient times, and the earliest organized races appear in written records from about 700-40 bce. Some people criticize the sport, calling it inhumane, while others believe that it represents the pinnacle of achievement for the animals who participate.
The equine athletes that compete in a horse race are called Thoroughbreds, and their breeding is based on the premise that fast speed is essential to a successful race. Most races are held on a flat track, but some feature obstacles such as hurdles or fences that horses must clear. A number of different types of horse races are held, and bettors place wagers on the winning horses.
Most horses competing in a horse race are given some form of medication before they begin the race to ensure that they are healthy and ready to run. These medications can include painkillers, anti-inflammatories, growth hormones and blood doping substances. A jockey is the person who rides a horse during a race and is responsible for the safety of the animal. The riders are required to wear safety helmets and other protective equipment, and they must be properly trained to handle a horse.
The most common type of horse race is a handicap, in which the weights that each competing horse carries are adjusted according to the horse’s age and performance. For example, a two-year-old will have to carry more weight than a three-year-old or older horse. There are also sex allowances, whereby fillies have to carry less weight than males.
Despite the popularity of horse racing, the sport has suffered from declining revenue and attendance during recent years. New would-be fans are often turned off by the high stakes and perceived corruption of horse racing, while existing fans may be concerned about the safety of the horses. In addition, the emergence of social media has made it possible for people to gamble on horse races without visiting the tracks.
In the days before modern technology, the only way for a race to begin was for the auxiliary starting gate to open and for the horses to enter. A steward could disqualify a rider if he or she failed to do this, and the horse would be considered a false start.
The ten horses crowded into the auxiliary gate, with War of Will, the 2015 Preakness winner, taking an early lead. The pack jostled, and Mongolian Groom balked. Bettors look at a horse’s coat in the walking ring before a race to see whether its color is bright and rippling with just the right amount of sweat and muscled excitement, but the horse was clearly not ready. It had just been injected with Lasix, a diuretic, and the injection was noted on the racing form with a bold-face “L.” The horses had to run quickly to get off their blotchy coats, so they had to keep drinking water as they ran.