A horse race is a competition in which horses are driven at top speed over a fixed course by a jockey mounted on top of them. Bettors place wagers against one another to win the race, with the first three finishers receiving the most money. The bets were originally private bets made to the owners of each individual horse, but in the 19th century they became public bets made through bookmaking operations (known as “bookies”). In 1984, computerized pari-mutuel betting was introduced, which greatly improved the efficiency and management of the horse races. This was accompanied by color television coverage that boosted attendance and betting.
The earliest recorded horse racing dates back to the Greek Olympic Games in 700 to 40 B.C. The sport later spread throughout the ancient world, and is credited with helping to establish chariot and charioteering as important sports in the Roman Empire. Later, in medieval Europe, it was a popular pastime among the nobility, and the royal courts of France, England, and Spain established major horse races as well.
Today, Thoroughbred races take place around the globe. There are many famous and prestigious races, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Melbourne Cup in Australia, and the Santa Anita Handicap in the United States. Some of these races are open to horses of all ages, while others restrict eligibility to older horses, and some offer special allowances for sex, gender, or training.
Some people criticize horse racing, arguing that it is inhumane and corrupted by doping and overbreeding. Nevertheless, the sport has its loyal fans who believe that the “Sport of Kings” is still a noble and honorable endeavor.
During a race, the stewards of each track must ensure that all rules are followed. This involves observing the condition of the horses, checking that all jockeys are wearing proper safety equipment, and ensuring that all horse races are run fairly. It also includes enforcing the rules of racing and settling disputes.
In addition, the stewards are responsible for enforcing the disciplinary rules of the sport, which can range from minor violations to serious offenses, such as unauthorized drug use or illegal gambling activities. The stewards can also suspend or expel a jockey or trainer from the sport for breaking any rules.
Besides examining the condition of each horse, the stewards must decide if the winning horse has won by a clear margin. They may also declare a dead heat if two or more horses cross the line at the same time. In this case, a photograph of the finish is studied by a panel of stewards to determine which horse crossed the line first.
During a race, the horses must be kept properly fed and watered to ensure their health and fitness. Each horse must also be injected with Lasix, a diuretic that is marked on the racing form with a boldface “L.” The drug’s function is to prevent pulmonary bleeding that can occur during hard running. However, its side effects include causing horses to unload epic amounts of urine–twenty or thirty pounds worth.