Horse races are an Olympic-level competition involving horses competing on an oval track for prize money. Each horse is led by its jockey who attempts to win by making sure his or her horse leaps over each hoop on the course, known as hoop jumping (if present). The top three finishers receive their winnings – known as purse – in different proportions while betting enthusiasts may place wagers for win, place or accumulator bets before each race starts.
Betting at horse races is not required, but most attendees do it to make money. Many make a living off placing bets on winners of races and may wear team gear such as caps or shirts to represent them at the track.
Horse races have a rich and long-standing history. In ancient Rome, riders would use mixtures of drugs to increase the endurance of their horses for racing competition. Medieval Europe punished those found cheating in horse racing by crucifying them on crosses. Following slavery’s abolition in America, thoroughbred racing became popular sport; Union officials encouraged breeding swift, strong horses during the Civil War so as to meet demand for cavalrymen.
Horse racing industry in 2020 stands as a multibillion-dollar enterprise, drawing spectators from across the world. Regulated by Jockey Club, which sets minimum performance standards and oversees testing for drugs in horses. Furthermore, technological innovations have further advanced horse racing with thermal imaging cameras being used post race to detect overheating; MRI/endoscope scans to spot minor or serious injuries; 3D printing to provide casts/splints/prosthetics for injured/ailing horses and thermal imaging cameras used post race to detect overheating post race; thermal imaging cameras used post race detect overheating post race to detect post race overheating; thermal imaging cameras to detect overheating post race; 3D printing provides casts/splints/prosthetics for injured/ailing horses.
After the US entered the global marketplace, horse racing experienced a wave of innovation that caught regulators off guard; many potential viewers had missed out due to slow adoption of television coverage and weak penalties for violations. Effective painkillers, anti-inflammatories, growth hormones and blood doping all became mainstream substances within racing; regulators could no longer keep up and penalties for violations were minimal.
Today, numerous factors have led to a decrease in interest in horse racing. One is how professional and college sports have taken its place as America’s most-watched spectator sports. As well, an increasing number of horse-racing fans are concerned with animal cruelty in racing. Following Eight Belles’s euthanization after breaking both ankles in 2008, PETA called for congressional hearings on horse-racing abuse. However, racing remains one of the most profitable spectator industries in America; producing approximately 20,000 Thoroughbred foals annually and employing hundreds of trainers and riders in its production process each year. Unfortunately for many horses involved, however, their future remains uncertain. Every year, thousands of unwanted or unprofitable horses are shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughtering as food for meat production. Trainers also continue experimenting with performance-enhancing chemicals and supplements, some deemed legal by racing officials but remaining illegal elsewhere.