A horse race is a sport where horses compete against each other for prize money. While the game has evolved over the centuries from a primitive contest of speed and stamina to today’s massive public-entertainment spectacle, the essentials remain the same. The first horse across the finish line is crowned the winner.
In the earliest days of horse racing, it was a match race between two or at most three horses with each owner providing half of the purse or a simple wager. The agreements were recorded by disinterested third parties who came to be known as keepers of the match books. One such keeper, at Newmarket in England, published An Historical List of All the Horse-Matches Run (1729).
The sport of horse racing has been impacted by many technological advances over the past several decades. Some of the most important are in areas of race safety and health with horses now subject to the highest level of security both on and off the track. Thermal imaging cameras can detect when a horse is overheating post-race while MRI scanners and X-rays allow for the detection of minor or major injuries. 3D printing has also made it possible to produce casts and splints for injured horses.
There are a number of other changes happening to the sport as well, including a move towards more equality for female jockeys and more women taking over the stud farms where breeding happens. Some of these changes are being pushed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which has recently replaced a triumvirate with its board and two other committees in an attempt to bring more balance to the sport.
This is a huge step in the right direction, but the BHA will have to make sure that it doesn’t over-regulate the industry because the current system of dozens of different rules across the dozens of states where horse racing takes place is unsustainable. This includes different standards for the use of whips in a race as well as the types of medications that a horse can receive.
There is also a growing concern over the amount of drugs being used in the sport, with many veterinarians being disheartened by the way trainers often over-medicate and over-train their horses until they break down and are either euthanized or sold at auction to be killed in a slaughterhouse. Random drug testing is in place, but it is clear that far too many violations are being overlooked.
A glossary of horse racing terms: handicap: a race in which weights are assigned with the specific objective of making the field of entrants as equal as possible; also, the study of a horse’s races to determine its chances of winning. past performances: A compilation of a horse’s racing record, earnings and bloodlines presented in composite form. patrol judge(s): Official(s) who observe a race from various vantage points around the course. trip: The course a horse and rider take during the running of a race, with a “good trip” referring to a course that doesn’t present any unusual difficulties.