What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a close contest or competition. It may refer to a contest of horses in which riders (jockeys) or drivers of sulkies compete by racing them around a course. It may also refer to a political contest, especially when used in reference to a presidential election or other important election. The term has a long history and has been in use throughout the world, with recorded examples of horse races dating back to ancient times. It has been practiced in most of the major civilizations, including Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, Persia, India, and Arabia. It has also been an important part of myth and legend, such as the contest between the steeds of the gods Odin and Hrungnir in Norse mythology.

The sport of horse racing has a long and distinguished history, but in recent years it has been in decline. Some observers blame declining interest in gambling, while others cite safety concerns. Many new would-be fans are turned off by the spate of horse deaths, including 30 in a single race at Santa Anita in 2019. The sport has also been plagued with controversy over doping and illegal gambling.

In the United States, horse racing is regulated by state and federal laws, as well as by the Jockey Club, which oversees the breed registry of thoroughbred horses. There are a variety of types of races, including allowance races, graded races, and stakes races. Each type is based on the level of competition, which is determined by the number of starters and the amount of money that is offered.

The most important and prestigious races are the American graded races, which have assigned ranks (I, II, or III) based on the quality of previous winners. A graded race may carry bonus points, which can be used to determine the winner of a series or to earn entry into other races. In addition to the graded races, there are a large number of open-entry, invitational, and maiden races.

Most racehorses are owned by groups or syndicates, and they are rarely able to call one place home. They are trucked, shipped, or flown to the thousands of races that take place every year. It is difficult for the horses to develop a sense of familiarity with their surroundings, and they are often frightened by the noise and crowds at the tracks.

Hundreds of horses are killed in a typical race. While animal rights activists say that a great many of those are murdered for the sake of human entertainment, some are discarded as injured or unproductive, and some die in training accidents or because they are simply too old to be ridden. Patrick Battuello, who heads the animal welfare group Horseracing Wrongs, says that the idea of horse racing as a sport is “the Big Lie.” Its athletes are drugged, whipped, trained and raced too young, and they live their work lives in solitary confinement. He believes that if the public knew the truth about the brutality of the sport, it would stop supporting it.