A horse race is a race in which horses race against each other. These races usually involve the first three horses that cross the finish line. In recent years, technological advances have altered the way these races are run. Some of these changes include 3D printing of prosthetics for injured horses and the use of thermal imaging cameras to detect overheating horses after the race.
While the exact date of the first horse race is not known, evidence points to races dating back to Ancient Rome. Archeological records suggest that these races may have occurred in North Africa, the Middle East and China.
The earliest European racing was probably a match race, which was simply a win or lose event. It was recorded in the Greek Olympic Games in 700 to 40 B.C., and was well organized public entertainment. During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), horse racing based on gambling was prevalent.
During the 19th century, private bets were extended to bookmaking. A wagering system known as pari-mutuel was developed by racetrack managements. Bets could be placed on the first three horses, the odds of winning or even the total number of finishers.
After the Civil War, speed became the goal. Jockeys and post positions were deemed insignificant. The average speed rating of the last four races was considered the most important factor.
Throughout the 19th century, many drugs were introduced into the sport. Drugs including powerful painkillers, antipsychotics and growth hormones were used to treat the horses before and during a race.
As drugs became more and more common, racing officials could not keep up. Fortunately, by the turn of the 20th century, the use of x-rays and endoscopes was able to identify major health problems, such as cancer, before they deteriorated.
Several notable exceptions to the classic age of three continue to exist. For example, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which is held each year at the Grand Prix course in Paris, accepts horses up to five years old. However, most prestigious flat races are considered tests of stamina, since the distances are in the middle of this range.
Although there are some notable differences, the majority of the rules have been preserved. One of the most significant changes is the reduction in the number of yards in a race.
In the twentieth century, the practice of juicing horses, which is a method of fixing a race, was eliminated. By the twenty-first century, the concept of a “best horse” had been discarded. Rather than awarding prize money to the best horse, the best jockey was often put on the best horse. This, combined with the correlation of jockeys to the performance of the horses, nullified the value of the jockey.
Since then, the focus of handicapping has been to establish racing form and give all horses an equal chance of winning. Handicaps are assigned based on a horse’s past performance, its ability, gender, and its birthplace. Depending on the size of the field, the number of places awarded can be as few as one or as many as nine.