Horse racing is a fascinating sport and has become a major influence on our culture. The origins of horse racing are largely unknown, although it is known that there were organized chariot and mounted (bareback) races in the Olympic Games as early as 700 B.C.E. The game became a formal competition when men appeared on the horses and became known as jockeys. In the modern world horse racing is a major industry and it has an impact on our economy as well.
In a typical race, bettors place their money on the horse they believe will finish first, second or third. If they bet to win, the horse must come in first place for their bet to pay off. If they bet to place, the horse must come in either second or third and if they bet to show, the horse must come in first, second or third, but not necessarily in that order. There are a number of factors that influence a horse’s chance of winning a race, such as the track condition, its position in the field, its sex, and its training.
Before the race begins, bettors watch the horses in the walking ring. If the horses’ coats are bright and rippling with sweat, the bettors believe that they will be ready to run. But if the horses balk, the bettors are worried that the animals may be frightened or angry. The frightened or angry horses will most likely not run fast and will be easy to beat.
Despite the obvious dangers to the horses, there is still considerable controversy about some aspects of horse racing, particularly the use of whips and tongue-tie devices. These tools cause significant pain and distress, and can have long-term negative health effects for the horses. The use of these devices is illegal under animal welfare laws, but they are still used by some trainers and riders to coerce their horses into running faster than they would otherwise.
Another controversial aspect of horse racing is the use of Lasix, an injectable diuretic that causes horses to unload epic amounts of urine during a race. This drug is administered to the vast majority of thoroughbreds before a race and is noted on the racing form with a bold-face “L.” The medication is intended to prevent pulmonary bleeding that hard running can cause in some horses.
In addition to the three main ways to bet, there are a number of other exotic bets that can make the race even more exciting. For example, the race can be a ‘handicap’ whereby horses are allocated different weights to compete under for fairness and there are also allowances for age, sex and jockey. These races offer the biggest purses. Famous races that are handicapped include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby in America, and the Caulfield Cup and Sydney Cup in Australia. There are other, lesser-known races that also award handicapped prizes.