The horse race is an intense, dangerous event in which a human rider tries to get a horse from one end of the track to the other before the finish line. The horse is often whipped and drugged, and it can suffer from gruesome breakdowns or even bleed to death during the race. Some people oppose the sport of racing, saying it is inhumane or corrupted by doping and overbreeding. Others support it, arguing that it is still an exciting, thrilling game that provides entertainment and money for fans.
The first organized horse races began in the 17th century, and they soon spread to other countries. By the early 19th century, America had established a Triple Crown series of elite races: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Today, there are scores of international horse races.
A horse race can last anywhere from two minutes to an hour or more. The horses in a race are usually small, and they run on hard surfaces at speeds up to 40 miles per hour (64 km per hour). Many races are restricted to specific types of horses, such as those of a particular age or sex. Other races, known as open races, are available to all eligible horses. A horse’s winning time can be influenced by the weight it has to carry, its position in the starting gate, the prevailing “going” or conditions, its jockey, and its training.
As a result of the many variables involved in a horse race, it is difficult to determine whether a particular horse has achieved its peak level of ability. Some researchers believe that a horse’s innate desire to win and its genetic makeup play a big role in the final results of a race.
Another important variable is the amount of medication a horse receives during a race. Horses can be given powerful painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and other drugs to enhance their performance. In the past, many of these medications were available only to humans, and the racing industry did not have the testing capacity or penalties to keep up with the drugs that were being used on horses.
Many horses, especially older ones, are subjected to cocktails of drugs that can mask injuries and improve their performance. These include anabolic steroids, growth hormones, and blood doping. In addition, some horses are treated with cocktail of legal and illegal drugs to prevent a potentially fatal disease called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.
Despite improved treatment and medications, the physical demands of horse racing continue to increase. As a result, there has been a steady decline in winning race times, and a sharp drop since 1949. (Table 2.)
Despite its glamorous and romanticized image, horse racing is actually a brutal and corrupt industry. Behind the facade of horse races is a world of drug abuse, injuries, and gruesome breakdowns. Unless serious reforms are made, the future of racing appears bleak. Some experts have even predicted that the race may be destined for extinction, although other observers argue that the sport is not as endangered as it seems.