A horse race is an equestrian sport involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys and competed over a set distance for a prize. The difficulty of the course is determined by the distance to be run, with longer courses testing both speed and stamina. The winning horse is awarded a purse consisting of cash and a trophy. In addition to a competitive element, horse races are often conducted for entertainment purposes and have become an important industry worldwide with many famous equine stars, as well as owners, trainers, and breeders.
Individual flat races are held over a range of distances, from as short as 400 yards to more than four miles (6.4 km). Shorter races are known as sprints, while longer ones are called routes in the United States and staying races in Europe. Fast acceleration and a turn of foot are required for success in sprints, while the ability to sustain a high speed over a long distance is vital for success in a route or staying race.
The modern era of horse racing dates back to the 18th century with the development of Newmarket, England as a center of breeding and racing. Its popularity has increased as betting on the sport has become a popular pastime for a growing number of fans around the world.
The history of horse racing is rich, with records from many cultures and civilizations documenting the sport. Archaeological evidence shows that horse racing was common in ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere. It was an integral part of the Olympic games from 648 BCE onwards and was a prominent feature of the other Panhellenic events as well. It also features in legend, such as the contest between Odin’s steed and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology.
While horse racing is a profitable industry, there are concerns about safety and animal welfare. In recent years, several horse deaths have occurred at Santa Anita and other tracks, stoking calls for tougher medication and testing rules. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has been banned from California’s track after one of his horses failed a drug test following a win at the Kentucky Derby, but he is close to being reinstated.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, an international trade organization for the thoroughbred horse racing industry, oversees a comprehensive set of regulations designed to ensure horse safety and promote ethical business practices. The association’s Code of Ethics includes provisions on doping, drugs, and equipment. It also requires that races be run on surfaces that are safe and well maintained. Additionally, the association requires that horses be well cared for and treated humanely. Athletes and trainers are subject to discipline by the association if they fail to adhere to the rules. In addition to enforcing the rules, the association is involved in educational and outreach programs to promote safety to the public and industry members. The association also supports and funds anti-cruelty initiatives, including a hard-hitting undercover investigative campaigns to turn public opinion against abusive forms of animal entertainment, persuade travel companies to stop selling tickets to SeaWorld and other cruelty-inducing attractions, and facilitate the transfer of neglected animals from roadside zoos and traveling menageries to reputable sanctuaries.