The Basics of Horse Racing

Horse races are events where horses compete for a purse of money. The horses are driven by jockeys and carried by humans over a fixed distance. The first horse to cross the finish line is considered the winner. Several factors determine the winning horse, including speed, stamina, and the ability to handle pressure.

A horse can suffer from a variety of injuries and illnesses that affect its performance. Common injuries include fractures of the bones of the front legs (the fetlock and cannon) and the sesamoid bones in the foot. Other ailments can include pulmonary hemorrhage, heart failure and colic. Sesamoid fractures are common in racehorses and may occur in one or both of the small bones above the ankle joint. A horse can also be injured by a collision with another racehorse or a barrier.

Horse racing is a popular spectator sport and betting is an important part of the industry. In addition to placing bets on the race winner, people can place bets on a specific jockey or trainer, a group of horses, or an entire field. Some bettors like to make accumulator bets, which involve placing multiple bets on different outcomes of the same race.

There are many types of horse races around the world. The most famous are the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Caulfield and Sydney cups in Australia, Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England, Wellington Cup in New Zealand, Durban July in South Africa, and a variety of European classics. Most races are for three-year-olds, who are called sophomores, although older horses are occasionally used in special races such as the American Triple Crown series of the Belmont Stakes, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

The early days of horse racing were winner-take-all affairs, but as the sport grew more popular rules governing eligibility and entry were established based on the age, sex, birthplace, race history, and training of the horses. Races were categorized as open, handicap or conditions and races for fillies and mares were given weight allowances when running against males.

The popularity of the sport has grown, and so have concerns about animal welfare. In 2020, Congress passed laws that will require the racing industry to meet minimum standards for equine health and safety. The new laws will have a significant impact on the industry, which is already seeing declining revenue and number of races. However, despite these improvements, the cruelty inherent in the industry is still evident. Horses die at the track from cardiovascular collapse and pulmonary hemorrhage, broken necks and spines, shattered legs and fractured pelvises, and even traumatic head trauma. Increasing awareness and public outrage are driving the racing industry to improve its animal care. But the truth is, it’s not enough. To learn more about the dark side of the racing industry and how to help put an end to this gruesome form of entertainment, visit PETA’s Horse Racing page.