A horse race is a sport in which horses are guided by jockeys over a fixed course and, in some cases, over jumps. The winning horse receives prize money, usually determined by how well it finishes in the race. A number of rules and regulations govern the conduct of horse races, which vary among national organizations. In general, the horses must be purebred and have a sire and dam. The stewards may also decide to disqualify a horse if it is deemed to have acted improperly during the race, and to impose other penalties.
The most prestigious horse race in the world is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which is run annually at Longchamp in Paris. This 2 1/2-mile race is a test of stamina and requires the horse to have great endurance. It was once the longest distance for a flat race for Thoroughbreds, and it was won five times by Kelso and Man o’ War. Siena’s central square, the Piazza del Campo, is transformed beyond recognition during the days leading up to the race. The streets are packed with a gritty mixture of clay and earth to create a level track and protect the ancient cobblestones from the hooves of the horses. Restaurants and cafes move to the side, bleachers are erected for thousands of spectators, and barriers are erected to separate spectators from the horses.
One of the major challenges facing horse racing is the growing awareness of its dark side. While the public focuses on the fancy outfits of the owners and their glamorous entourage, the reality is that horse racing involves a gruesome industry that includes injuries, fatal breakdowns, drug abuse, and transport to slaughterhouses. Many of these horses are discarded when they no longer make enough money for their owners, who have little interest or accountability in their long-term health and welfare.
Other terms used in horse racing include:
A good trip is a race in which the horse encounters no unusual difficulties or problems, such as being forced wide or boxed in behind other horses. A bad trip, on the other hand, is a race in which the horse encounters trouble, such as having to take an extra long stride or jumping a fence that would be easier to clear on a plain course.
The area in which horses are paraded before a race is called the paddock. This is where the jockeys and trainers prepare their mounts for the race.
A bet on a horse to win is a win bet, while a bet on a horse to finish in the placings is a place bet. A win bet is settled at a fraction of the odds offered for the selection, and place bets are settled at a lower amount, depending on the size of the handicap. Odds are published on the tote board, which can be found in the paddock or in the stands. Occasionally, a horse will be backed, meaning that it is the favourite to win, and layed, or priced, at less than evens.