A horse race is a competition between two horses that is held over a set distance. The first one to cross the finish line is considered the winner. This is one of the world’s oldest sports and a popular spectator sport today. It is also an industry that contributes around $15 billion to the economy each year.
While the basic premise of horse racing has undergone little change over the centuries, the sport is now an enormous spectacle that includes a huge field of runners, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and immense sums of money. Despite the fact that it is now more of a business than a sport, the sport continues to be popular with the public and the media.
The earliest races were match contests between only two horses, but pressure by the public eventually produced events with larger fields of runners. Rules were developed governing the age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance of horses and the qualifications of riders.
Early racing was over 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) heats, and a rider’s skill and judgment were not as vital to winning as they are now. As dash racing became the rule, however, gaining a few feet gained new importance. To achieve this, a horse had to be at the top of its form.
In addition to the physical and psychological demands of a race, horses are subjected to a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs in an attempt to mask injuries and enhance their performances. Many of these drugs cause the horses to bleed from their lungs, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Often, the horses are given drugs such as Lasix or Salix, which act as diuretics and have performance-enhancing qualities.
As they run, horses are constantly adjusting their stride length and limb placement to maintain the best balance between power and speed. They are also subjected to the pressure of the crowd and a variety of external stimuli such as noise, wind, and other horses.
In the bowels of the grandstand, people from all walks of life periodically gather to watch banks of TV screens that broadcast races from other states and countries. The crowds are mostly working-class men, and they clap and cheer with the rhythm and ring of universal imprecations.
In the backstretch, the eleven horses broke cleanly from the gate, moving with hypnotic smoothness and a powerful pace. War of Will took the lead, hugging the inside rail, with Mongolian Groom and McKinzie a few lengths behind him. Then, in the final stretch, Vino Rosso moved to challenge War of Will. It was close, but the big chestnut colt surged past and won by a nose.