Horse racing is a sport in which horses are ridden and guided over a course of obstacles, usually over jumps, with the goal of crossing a finish line first. The race may take place on flat or hilly terrain, on natural or artificial tracks. Often, the race will be contested by a number of horses, and in some races a dead heat is declared if no horse clearly wins. In many countries, a national horse race is organized and run by a governing body that establishes the rules of the sport. While differing national organizations may have slightly different rulebooks, the majority of rules are similar across races.
In order to participate in a horse race, an individual must register with the governing body of the race and provide proof that he is eligible to do so. Typically, this will include a driver’s license or some other form of identification that proves his identity. Once a person has registered, he is permitted to enter the track and watch or wager on the race. The governing body of the race will also set rules regarding how betting is conducted and who can win.
The earliest horse races were match contests between two, or at most three, horses. As interest in racing grew, however, larger fields began to appear. Then, pressure from the public led to a shift toward dash racing (one heat) where the ability of a horse to gain a few yards became vitally important. The rider’s skill and judgment in coaxing that advantage from his mount remained crucial to winning a race.
Many would-be horse racing fans are turned off by scandals involving drug abuse and safety issues. In addition, the sport’s older customers tend to be loth to attend races, and new would-be fans are intimidated by the sheer size of a thoroughbred horse.
The multibillion-dollar industry of horse racing suffers from a long list of abuses. Pushed beyond their limits, most horses are subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs designed to mask injuries and boost performance. For example, powerful painkillers intended for humans can cause a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in which the horses bleed from their lungs. In addition, blood doping is commonplace. Trainers are allowed to use a variety of substances, and testing facilities are inconsistent and inadequate.
In 2020 Congress decided that it was tired of seeing these beautiful animals die to entertain fans, and passed legislation requiring basic standards of safety across the country. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) started enforcing those standards in July of 2022. It remains to be seen whether the industry will be willing to change. But the hope is that HISA will bring America closer to Europe and other venues in terms of basic horse racing safety.