A horse race is a form of racing in which a jockey (rider) and a horse compete to be the first one over the finish line. The horses may also jump hurdles and fences if the race requires them. There is a lot of money involved in horse races, with the winner taking the majority of the total purse.
The sport of horse racing is an ancient one that originated sometime before 1000 B.C.E. Horses were ridden on two-wheeled carts or chariots and the game evolved into an official sport when men began to ride in front of them and became known as jockeys.
There are many different types of races, but the most popular are flat races. These are run over distances ranging from five to twelve furlongs, or about one to two miles. Shorter races are called sprints and are seen as tests of speed, while longer distances, known as routes in the United States and as staying races in Europe, are viewed as tests of stamina.
Races are usually timed to the nearest one fifth of a second, although some tracks have a more accurate system. A team of stewards and patrol judges, assisted by a photo-finish camera, watch the race to look for rule violations. When the horse crosses the finish line it is photographed and the stewards decide whether or not it was the winning horse.
Horses are typically kept for three to four years before they retire. This enables them to be retrained and to continue to improve their performance. The escalating cost of breeding fees and sale prices, plus the size of the purses has led to fewer races with horses beyond age five, but older horses are still occasionally used in handicap and other races that have large prize money.
Betting on horse races is a worldwide activity that is enjoyed by millions of people. The bets can be placed on individual horses, accumulator bets and more. The most common ways to bet on a horse are betting to win, place and show. Bets to win pay out a fixed amount of money if the horse comes in first, while bets to place and show have lower payouts on average.
The stewards are responsible for the safety of all participants, including the horses, riders, and officials. In the event of a horse fatality on the racetrack, protocols include a necropsy, review of contributing factors, vet records and interviews with the rider and trainer. This information is used by the governing bodies to investigate incidents and prevent future deaths. In addition, a veterinary panel reviews all deaths to ensure that safety measures are being implemented. These panels are composed of experts in their fields. They are required by the governing body to report to them in any case of an on-track death. This has resulted in a number of changes to track safety. Moreover, the horse racing industry is working to improve animal welfare throughout the world.