A horse race is a competitive running of Thoroughbred horses. Competing horses are guided by jockeys over a race track or course that may include hurdles and fences that must be jumped. The winning horse is the first one to cross the finish line. Various betting options allow bettors to place money on the outcome of a race such as ‘win’ (first place), ‘place’ (second) and’show’ (3rd or better).
Although horse racing was among the top spectator sports following World War II, it fell from popularity with the advent of major professional and collegiate team sports. The sport has struggled to attract younger patrons, relying on older retirees as its primary audience.
In addition, the industry has been hammered by concerns over horse welfare. Although the vast majority of races are conducted safely, some horses suffer from the exorbitant physical stress of competition and training. The 2008 deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit—both champions who died under the blazing sun during the Kentucky Derby—sparked a reevaluation of the integrity of horse racing in America. Horses continue to die under the same conditions, but it is difficult to know how many because of a lack of industry regulation, record keeping and transparency.
Since its earliest days, horse racing has been an international event. Countless countries host horse races for both amateur and professional participants. Among the most prestigious races in the United States are the Triple Crown series, comprised of the Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby. Many other races have earned similar recognition around the world.
Horse racing also faces a unique challenge in its effort to embrace more gender equality. Although more females are becoming jockeys, a deeply entrenched culture of male dominance remains. This is particularly true of Australia, where more than half of all active jockeys are men. Despite more women jockeys than ever before, few are successful at the top level.
As the industry continues to grapple with these issues, technological advances are changing how horses are trained and cared for. The introduction of thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners, endoscopes and 3D printing can detect a variety of health problems before they become serious or even fatal.
The use of these technologies is just part of a larger push to modernize horse racing to make it more competitive with other sports, especially on television. This includes improving betting lines and promoting the game to a broader, more diverse audience. In addition, efforts are underway to introduce new types of races and wagers that appeal to a broader range of fans. The industry is hoping that this change will help it to revive interest in horse racing in the U.S. and beyond.