Horse racing is a sport in which horses are pitted against each other to determine the winner. It has been part of human culture for thousands of years and has been practiced in a variety of civilizations. It has evolved from a primitive contest of speed or stamina into an intricate and sophisticated spectacle featuring large fields of runners, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and enormous sums of money, but its essential feature remains the same: the first horse to cross the finish line is declared the winner. While some critics of the sport contend that it is inhumane or corrupted by doping and overbreeding, others say that horse races are a form of public entertainment that contributes to the overall health of society.
Before the race begins, horses are positioned in starting stalls or behind a gate, and the gates open when the starter signals the start of the race. All flat races, except steeplechases and hurdle races, must be started from stalls or gates; however, in special cases where permission is granted, a race may begin with a flag. Jockeys ride the horses during the race and help them to navigate the course, including jumping any hurdles (if present) that they must overcome along the way. The riders are required to ride safely and guide their horses in a manner that is fair to all competitors. If a jockey does not ride his or her horse in a reasonable manner, the stewards of the race may disqualify him or her.
All horses participating in a race must be properly entered and rated by the governing body of the sport and must meet certain criteria, such as weight limits, age, and sex. The horse’s veterinary records are also reviewed before the race to determine if it is in good physical condition. Additionally, many of the world’s top racehorses are administered cocktails of legal and illegal drugs in order to mask injuries and enhance performance. For example, the drug Lasix is used to decrease bleeding in the lungs during exercise, and Salix is a diuretic with performance-enhancing properties.
Some of the most famous horse races are held in different parts of the world, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in the United States, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup in Australia, and the Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina. In addition to these international competitions, there are numerous smaller horse races that take place on the various continents. In the United States, there are more than 350 racetracks that host horse racing, which is one of the most popular spectator sports in the country. In addition, there are more than 500 million bets placed on horse races each year, which accounts for more than half of all wagers made on sports in the country.