Horse racing is one of the oldest sports and has been an important element of public entertainment in various societies around the world. It is believed to have begun in Arabia or Persia. The earliest recorded horse races were mounted bareback races. Barb horses were used in the early days of European racing.
After the Civil War, race officials sought speed. They also began to focus on a large field of runners. Those who were the favorites won at low payoffs. As the popularity of the sport spread, the prize money increased. A fourth prize was added.
Racing has also evolved into a global public spectacle with sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment and a huge number of runners. Most of the original rules have been kept. However, the evolution of the sport has been greatly impacted by the Information Age and technology in recent years.
For example, in the United States, the classic Kentucky Derby is a major event that draws a large crowd of fans and bettors. It takes place each year on Memorial Day at Churchill Downs. There is a simulcast commentary by a television commentator between the races.
Horses are allowed to weigh as much as twelve hundred pounds. Thoroughbreds are considered fully mature at five years of age, though there are notable exceptions. Their delicate ankles and tendons can give them incredible strain and pain.
In addition to the classic Kentucky Derby, other American races include the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Each of these three races has different tracks and different distances. These races are also known as “the Triple Crown.”
In the 1860s, heat racing for four-year-olds continued. Heats were reduced to two miles. Some races were sponsored. Examples of these are the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England and the Caulfield Cup in Australia.
New drugs, such as antipsychotics and growth hormones, were introduced. These drugs bled over into the preparation of races. Although the testing capacity was inadequate, the use of these drugs was deemed a factor in racing.
Another new drug was Lasix. This diuretic was given to prevent pulmonary bleeding. X-rays and endoscopes were also invented. Those who wanted to know the health of a horse could take an MRI scan. Thermal imaging cameras are also available for detecting minor health conditions.
One of the most significant changes is the introduction of race safety. Those who participate are required to wear headgear. This muffles the noise of the day’s activities. Similarly, photo verification is necessary for close race finishes.
A third-party organization, the Jockey Club, is responsible for breeding and registering thoroughbreds in North America. At its height, this organization sought to eliminate “doping,” the practice of a racer taking a banned substance to improve his performance. But, its concerns were more about unfairness to bettors than actual doping.
While there are many different types of horse races, the most popular are the handicap and handicap-disabled races. Handicap races involve a weight penalty for an individual horse’s past performance. Moreover, the jockey is not considered a factor in the rankings.