The Real World of Horse Racing

horse race

Behind the romanticized facade of horse racing, there is a world of gruesome injuries, drug abuse and ruthless slaughter. Thousands of horses die each year as a result of the exorbitant stress of the sport, while spectators sip mint juleps and admire the fancy outfits worn by the jockeys. Eight Belles and Medina Spirit are just two of many who have suffered at the hands of a system that forces horses to run for their lives.

When a race starts, the stall gates open and nine impatient horses jostle to line up in front of an audience of people. Then the starter drops a rope and nine frantic competitors rush toward each other in a minute-and-a-half of ruthless battle. During the race, the jockeys are forced to stay on their horses by holding onto stirrups and balancing in a semi-squat position. They must avoid falling off during the high-speed sprint, which can cause a variety of severe injuries, including spinal and upper and lower extremity fractures and dislocations. They are also vulnerable to being thrown from their mounts, with the potential for life-threatening spine injuries and hemorrhage from the lungs. The race ends with the winner being declared by a judge who looks at a computer screen to see how many seconds have passed since the start of the race and whether the horse has crossed the finish line. The race is often referred to as a “race of the century,” although countless races are far more deadly than this one.

In the beginning, professional riders demonstrated horses’ top speed to potential owners by riding them in short races over distances of a quarter, half or one mile on grass or dirt tracks. These races were called heats. Then in the 1700s, races over longer distances became more common, and the term “race” was used to describe them all.

As the sport grew, the number of races increased as well. During the early years of the 20th century, the number of racehorses in training was estimated to be 40,000. This number has now dropped to fewer than 100,000.

A horse that runs with a light, efficient effort (using more energy than breezing but less than running all out). A good racehorse will show speed and endurance throughout the entire course of the race and be fresh at the end of the final stretch or homestretch.

In wagering, betting to win across the board means placing bets on a horse to win, place and show. In Europe, this term has a different meaning because of the way places are paid in handicap races (see below).

A horse that is considered to be favored by the oddsmakers, or the most heavily bet horse. It is a good idea to place bets on the favorite in any race, especially if you have a large bankroll. This is because the winnings can be substantial. Unlike other sports, horse racing is the only sport where you can bet to win across the board.