Horse races are a unique form of competition in which racehorses, typically ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies and driven by drivers, compete against one another for prize money. The horses must follow a predetermined course, jump each hurdle (if present), and cross the finish line before any other horses. Prize money is usually awarded to the first, second and third place finishers. The sport’s rules are determined by different national organizations and can vary significantly.
Horse racing was among the top spectator sports in America following World War II, but by 2004 it had fallen to the bottom of the list, with only 1 to 2 percent of Americans listing it as their favorite sport. Many blame horse racing’s leaders for not embracing television to market the sport, which would have increased attendance and revenues. Others say that horse racing has simply become a victim of changing American demographics and the growing popularity of other team and individual sports, such as major professional and collegiate sports teams and golf.
Nevertheless, the sport has made a number of technological advances. The use of thermal imaging cameras can detect heat stress in horses post-race, MRI scanners and X-rays allow trainers to monitor the health of horses at home and on the track, and 3D printing can produce casts, splints, and prosthetics for injured or disabled horses. The industry also has a host of new betting options, including parimutuels and exotic wagers such as pick 3.
At the track, bettors examine a horse’s coat in the walking ring before the race to see if it is bright. If it is, it will likely run well. During the race, bettors watch the pace of the horses in order to determine whether they will win. In addition, they can place parimutuel bets on a single horse or on the winners of several races.
A horse’s ability to finish a race depends on how it has been trained. Jockeys must be careful to balance the horse’s needs with its desire to go fast. If a horse is overextended, it will tire quickly and may collapse or fall, which could result in serious injury.
The horses were thirsty, as most of them had been injected with a drug called Lasix that morning, noted on the race program with a bold face L. This drug is given to most thoroughbreds on race day to prevent pulmonary bleeding, which hard running causes in many horses. The drugs’ diuretic function causes the horses to dump epic amounts of urine, sometimes up to twenty or thirty pounds.
When two or more horses finish a race in a close photo finish, the race’s stewards study a photograph of the finish to determine which horse crossed the line first. The stewards then declare a winner. In rare cases where a photo finish cannot be decided, the stewards will declare a dead heat. A dead heat is considered a tie, and the resulting prize money is shared equally between the horses in question.