What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a contest in which horses are pulled by a jockey over a set course and through a series of obstacles. The winner of the race is determined by a combination of factors, including the speed of each horse and the skill of the jockey in coaxing the best performance out of his or her mount. Prize money is generally distributed to the first, second and third place finishers. A variety of rules govern horse races, depending upon the type of event.

For example, in a stakes race, which is open to all eligible horses, the horses compete on the basis of their past performances and their corresponding nominations (amounts that owners pay to enter their horses in races). In handicap races, the weights that horses must carry are adjusted according to the age, sex, and birthplace of the horse. A race may also be restricted to a certain type of horse, such as a filly or gelding.

To improve their chances of winning, horse race participants are often subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs that mask injuries and increase performance. Many of these drugs are designed to stop the pulmonary bleeding that hard running causes in horses, and for decades nearly every thoroughbred raced on a major track received a dose of Lasix, a diuretic marked on racing forms with a boldface “L.” The drug works by unloading epic amounts of urine—twenty or thirty pounds worth.

The sport of horse racing is one of the world’s most popular and prestigious events, and is a key driver of the US economy. However, growing awareness of animal cruelty in the industry has prompted a number of improvements to make races safer for horses. However, the industry still faces a number of significant challenges to the health and welfare of its animals.

Despite the efforts of animal rights groups and horse racing advocates, many Americans still see the sport as a glamorous and exciting pastime. But a growing number of people are starting to question the ethics of a sport in which horses are pushed beyond their physical limits, doused with dangerous drugs and then sent to slaughter.