A horse race is a competitive contest of speed or stamina between two or more horses. It is one of the oldest sports in the world and has evolved from a primitive contest between a few horses to a huge public entertainment business. The sport has developed over the centuries into a sophisticated affair involving large fields of runners, electronic monitoring equipment and immense sums of money, but its fundamental concept remains unchanged. Behind the romanticized facade of horse racing, however, lies a world of injuries and breakdowns, drug abuse, and gruesome slaughterhouse deaths. Increasing awareness of these issues has prompted some improvements in training practices for young horses and the slaughtering industry, but more needs to be done.
A graded race is a race in which the horses are handicapped on a graduated scale depending on their age and maturity. This system allows horses of different ages to compete against each other on a fair basis, and allows trainers and owners to target races for their best horses.
The most prestigious group of races in Flat and jumps racing are the Group and Graded races. These are restricted to certain age groups and classes of horses and have very high prize money. In Britain, the most important Flat races are called the Classics and consist of the 2,000 Guineas, the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks, and the Derby. Many European countries have their own version of the Classics.
Middle distance horses typically run a mile and up to 1m6f on the Flat, or up to 2 miles over jumps. These are known as sprint races and are often won by a breed such as the Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred that is considered a purebred sprinter, rather than a longer distance endurance runner.
When a horse is favoured by the weights in a race, it is said to be well in. This may be indicated by a horse wearing the trainer or owner’s first colours, being ridden by a stable jockey, or carrying shorter odds in the betting than its rivals.
A horse rated as ‘claiming’ has been entered in a race with a minimum claiming price. This means that connections of the horse can claim it for a set amount of money after the race, provided that they can meet the conditions of the race (e.g. the minimum claiming price). A claiming race usually has a lower starting price than a non-claiming race. The claiming price can vary from race to race and may be adjusted after the initial entries are made. A horse that is claimed will have its weight adjusted accordingly. The lowest claiming price for a race is usually ten pounds. The smallest possible unit of measurement for a race, equaling five furlongs on the Flat or two miles over jumps.