Horse racing is a popular sport in which competitors race against each other for a prize. It is practiced in many nations and is part of mythology and folklore around the world. It has a rich and varied history, with records of the game dating back to ancient civilizations including Greece, Rome, Babylon, Egypt, and Syria. It is considered a sport of skill, athleticism, and endurance, rather than one of speed.
In the United States, the sport is governed by the Horse Racing Commission of each state. The rules of the sport vary by jurisdiction, but most are based on those set forth in the original rule book of the British Horseracing Authority. These rules govern how races are conducted and the scale of weights to be carried by horses based on age, distance, sex, and time of year.
Throughout the industry, there is a constant tension between those who seek to improve the sport and those who defend its traditions. Growing awareness of the darker side of horse racing—abusive training methods, dangerous drugs, and slaughter of countless American horses abroad—has driven improvements in the sport, such as a ban on whip use in the breeding barns, more restrictions on the use of equine stimulants, and increased scrutiny of the industry’s drug testing procedures.
The sport’s underlying problem, however, is the prevalence of illegal doping. Until recently, it was common for powerful painkillers and anti-inflammatories intended for humans to bleed over into race preparation. The racing officialdom was ill-equipped to catch these practices and penalties were rarely enforced. As a result, trainers used an ever-expanding variety of doping substances to get their horses in shape for the track.
There are essentially three types of people in the horse racing industry: the crooks who illegally dope or otherwise abuse their horses; the dupes who labor under the illusion that the sport is broadly fair and honest; and the masses who know that it’s more crooked than it should be but don’t take all the steps necessary to fix it.
Some of the most famous horse races are held in Europe and the Americas. They include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups in Australia, the Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England.
The most famous race in the United States is the Kentucky Derby, which is run annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The race is widely known as the “most exciting two minutes in sports.” The winner is crowned by receiving a silver cup called the Triple Crown, and he or she is awarded $500,000 in cash. The horse who comes in second place is awarded a smaller purse. The third place finisher receives $150,000, and the fourth place finisher receives $75,000. The rest of the money is distributed according to a fixed formula. Runners who do not receive any prize money are paid by the owners, who also may be responsible for medical bills and other expenses incurred during the race.