What is a Horse Race?

There are essentially three types of people in horse racing: the crooks who dangerously drug or otherwise abuse their horses, the dupes who labor under the illusion that the sport is broadly fair and honest, and the far-too-silent majority who know the industry is more crooked than it should be but still fail to do all they can to right the wrongs. The latter category, of course, includes trainer Steve Asmussen.

Those who love and respect horses have been forced to reassess their priorities in light of a mounting public outcry that has prompted the sport to take some serious steps toward improving the lives of its athletes, many of whom face horrific endpoints. It is not enough for racing insiders to scoff at PETA or dismiss its undercover video of cruelty, as they have done. They must also take steps to address the sport’s fundamental flaws, including overbreeding, abusive training practices for young horses, and drug use, which exacerbates injury, breakdown, and ultimately, death.

The sport’s long-term future is in doubt, especially as a growing number of nations and their citizens are shifting to a view of animals that emphasizes their rights to life and dignity. In addition, a rising percentage of bettors are no longer interested in placing wagers on a sport that increasingly resembles a game for scumbags.

While the exact definition of a horse race varies from nation to nation, in general terms, a horse race is a competition between a select group of horses over a distance measured by time. The horse race is governed by the rules and regulations of a specific racing jurisdiction. The regulations govern both the horses and the tracks on which they run.

In the United States, for example, the sport is regulated by state racing commissions. The commissions oversee all aspects of the sport, including a state’s licensing of horses and their trainers. The commissions also set minimum ages and weights for the horses. The horse racing commissions are responsible for enforcing the minimum standards for track safety, including preventing horses from running in a manner that could cause them to suffer fatal injuries or have a medical emergency during a race.

Historically, horse races have been categorized as either “winners,” or “placers.” Winners are those who finish first in the race. Placers are those who finish second or third. Bettors can also bet on a horse to “show,” which means that the horse will finish in first, second, or third. Bets to show are typically lower than bets to win, but they offer a greater chance of winning.

Before the modernization of horse racing, races were often match races, a type of contest in which two or more horses ran against each other with their owners providing the purse. An owner who withdrew from a match race would forfeit half of the purse, later the entire amount. This practice was recorded by disinterested third parties, who came to be known as keepers of the match books.