What is a Horse Race?

horse race

A horse race is a contest of speed between horses that are either ridden by jockeys or pulled in sulkies by drivers. The horses are usually Thoroughbreds, although Quarter-horses and other breeds do compete in racing. The races are timed to the nearest one hundredth of a second, which makes for many photo finishes. The horse who wins is declared the winner by a panel of judges. The sport is regulated by federal and state laws governing the ownership, training, and racing of horses.

Behind the romanticized facade of horse racing is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. While spectators dress in fine clothes and sip mint juleps, the horses are forced to sprint-often under the threat of whips or illegal electric shocking devices-at speeds that can cause serious injury or even hemorrhage from the lungs.

Improvements in medical treatment and technology have done little to alleviate the plight of the horses. Most races are run before they have fully matured, and the skeletal system is not yet fully developed to withstand the pressure of running at high speed. Many racehorses suffer chronic injuries and breakdowns, which can lead to lameness and, ultimately, slaughter.

In the earliest days of organized racing, races were match contests between two horses. But pressure by the public led to the development of events with larger fields. As dash (one-heat) racing became the rule, a rider’s skill and judgment in coaxing a few yards of advantage from his mount became vitally important. During this period, large mature horses were preferred; stamina was as important as speed.

The sport now features an elaborate system of rules and regulations, backed by a large industry of trainers, assistant trainers, grooms, owners, track officials, veterinarians, and other workers. The horses are inspected for weight, and saliva and urine samples are taken to detect the presence of prohibited drugs. If a horse is found to be on prohibited drugs, it is disqualified and barred from the sport.

But the truth is that serious reform of the sport must come from within. The cheaters, who dangerously drug and mistreat their horses, are a small, feral minority that stain the sport for everyone else. There are also the dupes, who labor under the false belief that the game is broadly fair and honest. And there are the masses in the middle, who are neither naive nor cheaters but who simply don’t do their all to bring about real reform.

Quick polls show that the presidential candidates are tied, but there has been less interest this election cycle in the swing states than in past ones. The lack of enthusiasm in these states may be due to the fact that this year’s debates have felt like a horse race. The Democratic candidates have been doing most of the talking, and their opponents have had few chances to make a compelling case to voters. As a result, many Americans are tuning out and heading for the door.