A horse race is a sport that involves a group of horses competing against one another. It is an ancient game with numerous cultures having held variations of it throughout history, from the Greek and Roman chariot races to Bedouin endurance runs in the desert. The modern horse racing industry began in England, with Newmarket becoming a center of breeding and racing. The most popular breed for horse races is the Thoroughbred, which has been developed over centuries to be fast and enduring. Many races are restricted to this breed, although some are open to other types of horses.
Typically, horse racing is done on flat tracks and over distances that vary between a mile and two miles, depending on the type of race and the track conditions. During a race, jockeys mount the horses and lead them around the course. They use a whip to urge the animal forward and keep them on pace. The horse that finishes closest to the winner is deemed to have won the race. Bettors can place bets to win, place or show in a horse race. The payoffs for winning are higher for bets placed to win, whereas those placed to place or show receive smaller payouts.
Handicap races are often held in which the racing secretary assigns weights to all of the entrants in an effort to level the playing field. The handicap is based on factors such as age, previous races and class of the race. A good handicapper studies the entrants and their past performance records to see what sort of odds will be offered by bookmakers.
The shortest of all horse races is the sprint, which is usually run over seven furlongs or less. The most prestigious flat races in the world, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Melbourne Cup and Japan Cup, are run over two turns over a distance of a mile and longer.
In European racing, a horse that is bet to show may have to take second or third to be considered the winner. The number of places that pay out varies by jurisdiction, with some countries paying only the first three finishers in a race.
A track that is dry and firm is described as a dirt track. It is usually faster than a sloppy track, which is wet and covered in puddles. A sloppy track may also be known as a muddy track, and is not suitable for a race. A muddy track can cause the hoof to slip and become injured, leading to a “pulled suspensory.” This is an injury in which some portion of the ligament that supports the distal portion of the limb is damaged or destroyed. The condition is usually diagnosed by x-ray and is treated with rest, exercise and possibly medication. If the condition is not treated, the limb may need to be surgically removed.