What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a contest of speed between horses who are ridden by jockeys or pulled in sulkies by drivers. The horse that crosses the finish line first is declared the winner. Horse races have evolved over the years from primitive contests of speed and stamina between two horses to enormous spectacles involving hundreds of runners, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and huge sums of money. The basic principle of the race, however, remains unchanged.The smallest advantage can make a world of difference in the outcome of a horse race. It is why jockeys spend such long hours training and riding their mounts. It is why many of the most famous horses in the world are trained by only a few top trainers. It is why winning a race requires a combination of training, skill and judgment by both rider and trainer.Claiming races are designed to level the playing field for horses that are not fast enough to compete at higher levels. The claiming price, which is the amount of money the owner would give to the trainer for their horse, is set at a minimum of $25,000. The horse must fit a certain criteria to qualify for the race (such as age, sex, or previous performance). By creating a risk-reward scenario, the claiming system helps keep the overall competitiveness of racing high.It is no secret that the horse racing industry has a problem with doping and drug abuse. Whether it is power painkillers or anabolic steroids, the drugs used in horse racing are a cocktail of legal and illegal substances that mask injuries, increase stamina, or both. The problem is so serious that it has led to the deaths of several horses in recent years.For decades, powerful racing insiders have looked the other way. They have given drug developers the time and space to get a leg up on officials developing tests for those substances, and they have allowed veterinarians to administer dangerous drugs to their horses too frequently. They have also equated any reform with a loss of profit.The release of the video from PETA and the New York Times has finally awoken the sleeping giant of thoroughbred horse racing. The industry is now faced with a crucial choice. It can ignore the facts of the matter and continue to do what it has done for centuries or it can embrace the message in that video, take action, and start to rebuild its tarnished image. The choice is the responsibility of those in charge of the sport, which includes state and federal regulators as well as trainers and owners. Virtually no one outside the industry cares how PETA gets its undercover videos; they only care about what is in those videos. If the industry does not wake up now, it is going down. And it will be an awfully messy crash when it happens.