A horse race is a competition in which horses run around a track. The horse who crosses the finish line first wins. The sport began in England in the early 1700s, when people would wager on which horse would win a particular race. The winner was awarded a cash prize, called the purse. This practice was eventually adopted in other countries. The purse amount varied, but the principle remained the same. Early races were called match races. The winner of a match race was determined by a simple wager between the horses’ owners. The agreement was recorded by disinterested third parties who came to be known as keepers of the match book. One of the earliest keepers of the match book was John Cheny at Newmarket, who published An Historical List of All Matches Run (1729).
The modern Thoroughbred horse is specially bred and trained to compete in elite races. They are not only forced to sprint, but they do so at speeds that often result in serious injuries and even fatal hemorrhage from the lungs. Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred racing lies a world of drug abuse, abusive training practices, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. In recent years, growing awareness of the dark side of the industry has fueled improvements in race safety. Thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners, and X-rays allow veterinarians to detect a wide range of minor or major health issues in racehorses before they cause injury. 3D printing technology can produce casts, splints, and prosthetics for injured horses.
However, serious reform is needed if the industry is to thrive. Some horsemen and horsewomen, a small, feral group, continue to cheat, staining the integrity of the sport for everyone else. There are also a number of good men and women who know what is wrong with the sport but cannot or will not give their all to change it. And then there are the far-too-silent majority who simply watch and hope.
An important aspect of the game is its handicapping system, which adjusts the size of a horse’s weight in relation to other runners. The higher the handicap, the more difficult it is for a horse to win. In fact, many race horses carry a handicap of more than 140 pounds. This makes it difficult to maintain a winning pace, and it is also very easy for a jockey to lose his or her mount.
In addition to the weight, the innate ability of a race horse is another factor that influences its performance. While some breeders have claimed that insufficient genetic variance through generations of inbreeding has kept winning race times from improving, other research suggests this is not the case.
The enduring appeal of horse racing can be attributed in part to the way it is reported in the media. A series of studies, including this study, show that corporate-owned and large-chain newspapers are more likely to publish stories framed as a competitive game.