A horse race is a sporting competition between two or more horses ridden by jockeys over a designated distance. It is one of the oldest sports in history and has been practiced in civilisations across the world since ancient times. Originally, it was just a contest of speed, though over time, it has evolved into a huge public entertainment business and spectacle.
The most prestigious flat races are seen as tests of stamina and speed. They are run over distances that range from about 400 yards to a mile and a half. This means that the horses must be able to travel the distance with little rest, often without being slowed by obstacles along the way.
Handicap races repudiate the classic concept that the best horse should win, and instead assign different weights based on the ability of the individual horse. They also aim to create equal chances for all horses in the race.
There are two basic types of handicap races, the Metropolitan and Suburban. Both are based on the age of the horse and the type of racing. However, the Metropolitan is the most prestigious of the two. Often, it is set by the track where the race is held.
Another type of handicap race is the stakes race. This type of race is also known as a grade 2 race, and is usually conducted at major race tracks. In this type of race, the top three finishers are awarded the highest purses.
Other prestigious races include the Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby. These races are part of the American Triple Crown, which involves three of the most prestigious horse races in the United States.
As the popularity of horse racing continued to expand throughout the 19th century, races were more standardized. English classic races such as the King’s Plates were standardized. In 1751, four-year-olds carrying 126 pounds were admitted to the King’s Plates. Later in the 18th century, One Thousand Guineas and Two Thousand Guineas were added to the classics.
A race declaration is a formal notification from the trainer, typically made 48 hours before the race. A record is kept on the horses in the race, and the figures next to the horses’ names on the race card indicate whether they have fallen.
The oldest recorded horse race was likely held in Persia or the Middle East. Archeological records indicate that horse races were held in Ancient Greece, Babylon, Syria and Egypt.
In North America, organized racing began with the British occupation of New Amsterdam in 1664. From there, racing spread to neighboring countries and other continents. Since the 20th century, horse racing has been impacted by technological advances and has suffered a decline in popularity. Still, a large number of people watch the Grand National, especially when the time is right.
Many of the sport’s greatest jockeys are British. In the United States, the richest events are funded by stakes fees paid by owners.