Horse racing is an ancient sport that dates back to prehistoric civilizations. Archaeological evidence shows that horses were used to race in Greece, Rome and Babylon, among other places. The sport evolved from primitive contests of speed and stamina to today’s complex racetracks with sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment and massive sums of money wagered. The basic concept has not changed, however. The horse that crosses the finish line first wins the race.
Horse races are held on a variety of surfaces, including dirt and grass, though the majority of horse races are run on turf courses. The course design also varies from one venue to the next. For example, some tracks feature a six furlong oval while others have a seven-furlong racetrack.
In order to win a horse race, the entrant must make it around the entire course of the race and jump all of the obstacles (if present) in the prescribed fashion. A race may be classified as a handicap race, allowance or an apprentice jockey race, depending on its rules and the amount of prize money awarded to the top three finishers.
Aside from the monetary value of winning a horse race, there are other aspects of a race that attract spectators and bettors. For example, a good-looking, well-bred horse can draw people to the grandstands and bet windows. A popular horse like Seabiscuit drew people in, both hard-core daily bettors and casual visitors who rooted for him just because of his name. Bettors usually cheer a horse by its number, and the more popular the horse, the more likely they are to be cheered for with the chant “Come on — Number Three!”
The people who race and train horses love their animals and cherish their way of life. That is why, when a horse is euthanized due to injury or old age, they often mourn deeply. In the normal course of events, horses live out their lives and, when their careers are over, they find second lives as pleasure horses or breeding stock.
For this reason, true horse people welcome oversight of the sport because it keeps the equines and their human partners much safer and ensures that everyone has a fair chance to compete. It is this underlying principle that drives horse racers to be so supportive of regulations against the use of performance enhancing drugs in their sport.
The history of organized horse racing in North America dates to the British occupation of New York in 1664. Colonel Richard Nicolls, commander of the British forces, laid out a course and offered prizes for races. His efforts are credited with introducing the Thoroughbred breed to the United States and establishing organized racing in the colonies. Until the Civil War, when speed became the primary goal, Thoroughbreds were bred for stamina rather than speed.