What is a Horse Race?

Horse races are contests of speed or stamina between competing horses and jockeys. Often, a race ends in a dead heat and the winner is decided based on a photo finish.

Growing awareness of industry cruelty has prompted some commendable changes, but racing still has a long way to go before it can honestly say that it is a safe sport for horses. In the meantime, countless retired racehorses hemorrhage into slaughter pipelines and face horrific endings.

Races are held on a track

A horse race is a sport in which a jockey and their mount compete over a distance for prize money. The sport has a long history and is popular worldwide. Unlike many other sports, there is no point system in horse racing, and the winner is determined by which horse crosses the finish line first. There are also other awards, such as a prize for the best-dressed horse.

Each race track has a main outer track made of dirt or synthetic material. This is surrounded by one to three inner tracks, which may be made of grass or turf. Each track has a starting point and a finish line.

Each course has poles of various sizes and colors that mark measured distances along the race track. These markers are useful to fans and jockeys/drivers alike, as they help them keep track of the length of a race. For example, furlong poles are large green poles that mark when a race has reached half a mile.

Jockeys ride their horses

Jockeys are vital to the success of a race horse and play a huge role in making it run faster during a race. They extend and restrict their legs, which helps transmit vertical force with their body weight to the horse’s back. This creates a large amount of kinetic energy and allows the jockey to keep the horse’s balance.

Successful jockeys train intensely for the challenges of riding high-speed horses in extreme weather conditions. They eat carefully and often take sugary boosts on racedays for energy. They must also be in good cardiovascular health for the demands of the job. They must weigh themselves before a race, with all their clothing, tack and saddles included in their total.

They have set weights to carry for each race, depending on their experience and quality as a rider. Apprentices can claim a reduction (allowance) on their assigned weight, which may be as low as one kilogram. This allows them to obtain rides that would otherwise be reserved for more experienced jockeys.

The winner is determined based on a photo finish

While most horse racing fans have seen the image resulting from a photo finish, the process by which this image is created may be less well understood. The photo finish image is actually a composite of multiple narrow images taken precisely at the finish line. This allows the judges to determine who passed the finish line first, and thus which horse won the race.

Until the invention of photo finish technology, race outcomes were invariably determined by the first horse to cross the finish line. In some cases, however, the horses would pass the finish line at very similar times and determining the winner was an inexact science. Until photo finish cameras were invented, three stewards stationed at the finish line would have to vote on the winning horse in the event of any doubt.

Photo finish technology was introduced in 1937 at the Del Mar Turf Club, which was then owned by Bing Crosby. It was based on a single-exposure camera that could capture 136 images each second. This film was exposed just before the horses reached the finish line.

Prize money is awarded

Horse racing is a thrilling sport, but the sheer amount of prize money involved in a race can be overwhelming. This pot of gold, called the purse, is what drives owners and trainers to spend so much time and energy preparing their horses for each race. It also serves as an incentive for jockeys to compete as hard as possible and push their horses as far as they can.

The size of a race’s purse is determined by how much people bet on the event and by entry fees for the horses. Adding funds from big sponsors can also increase the size of a purse.

The winner of a race takes home 60%-70% of the total purse, while second place gets 20%. The rest of the purse is divided among other horses based on their finish position. Some tracks pay out as many as six or eight places, while others only give the top four or five a percentage share.