A horse race is a sport wherein competing horses are ridden by jockeys and guided across a race track. A horse that crosses the finish line first is declared the winner of the race. Horses may also be required to jump over obstacles along the way such as fences and hurdles. Some races have rules that specify what type of horses are eligible to compete.
Horse racing is a popular form of entertainment for spectators and punters. It is also considered an elite sport, with professional jockeys and trainers earning large sums of money. It is a risky sport, however, and as a result many racehorses suffer from physical injuries and mental trauma. In recent years, headline-grabbing tragedy and scandal have plagued the industry. For example, in 2019, over 30 horses died at California’s Santa Anita Park, while allegations of drugs misuse have surrounded owners and trainers of Triple Crown winners. The sport’s intense training and immature body structure make it prone to injury, and the use of performance-enhancing chemicals can have serious health consequences for the animals.
The earliest horse races were match races between two or at most three horses. The horses’ owners provided the purse, a simple wager, and disinterested third parties called keepers of the match books recorded the agreements. Over time, these keepers came to be known as stewards.
After the 1700s, organized races began to develop. Eligibility rules were established based on age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance. Rules governing the use of whips on the horses were also created to improve safety.
During the 19th century, thoroughbred racing developed into the sport we know today. Initially, the emphasis was on stamina, but by the late 1800s speed had become the hallmark of excellence.
Modern horse races are governed by an umbrella organization called the Horseracing Integrity Act (HISA). This organization is charged with ensuring that all horse races adhere to high safety standards. The HISA also has a hotline where alleged violations can be reported.
A number of different types of races are held in the United States and around the world. The most important race is the Preakness Stakes, which is run on a dirt track at Pimlico in Maryland. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds, while fillies have to weigh in at 121 pounds. The Preakness is the second leg of the American Triple Crown. It was originally a 1+1/2 miles (2,400 m) race until 1897, but it has been shortened to its current distance since then. Like the Derby, the Preakness is a Grade I event.