A horse race is an organized competition in which horses are tethered and then ridden by jockeys over a set distance. The sport of horse racing has been around for millennia and is practiced in nearly every country on earth. It is a major source of entertainment, gambling revenue and prestige for participants, spectators and the media alike. Some people criticize the sport, arguing that it is cruel and inhumane to the animals involved and that it is corrupted by drug use and overbreeding. Others believe that the sport is a time honored tradition and the pinnacle of achievement for the athletes involved.
Horse races can be divided into three categories, based on the rules and regulations of the governing body. There are handicap races, stakes races and graded races. In handicap races, each horse is assigned a weight to carry in order to level the playing field. The weights are determined by factors such as the horse’s age, distance, sex, and track conditions. In some races, horses are allocated a higher or lower weight based on their pedigree. Graded races offer larger purses than handicap races, and are usually reserved for high-quality horses.
Stakes races are generally held at prestigious venues and feature some of the highest purses of any event in the world. They are reserved for the top horses of each breed and can be won by either purebreds or a combination of thoroughbred and sporthorses. In the United States, stakes races are most commonly run on dirt tracks, while in other countries, turf (grass) courses are more common.
In addition to the stakes races, there are many other events, known as ‘conditions’ races, that offer large purses for quality horses. These include the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the 1,000 Guineas Stakes, the Derby, and the Oaks. The term ‘conditions’ refers to the fact that each race has specific requirements for each participant, such as a certain time of year or a minimum distance. Most of the ‘conditions’ races are run in Europe, but they can be found throughout the world, including Australia and South America. Spectators often attend these races in upscale clothing, sip mint juleps, and chat with other patrons. Some are even lucky enough to score a seat on the famous Millionaires Row. Behind the romanticized facade, however, is a world of injuries, drug abuse, and gruesome breakdowns. Every week, an average of 24 horses are injured or die during a race. Most owners have only a short-term financial interest in their horses, and therefore fail to provide them with adequate care. Many of these horses are then shipped to slaughterhouses where they will meet their tragic end.