Horses have been part of human culture for thousands of years and have been used for many different purposes, including pulling buggies and carriages. They also served as warhorses and were pitted against one another in races to prove their equine superiority. While racing has evolved into a massive public-entertainment business that involves massive fields of runners, high-tech monitoring equipment, and enormous sums of money, its basic contest of speed and stamina remains the same. Behind the romanticized facade of the sport, however, lies a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter.
The most well-known type of horse race is the American Triple Crown, which consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Other races include the St. Leger, Oaks, and Two Thousand Guineas, which together comprise the English classic races. But there are numerous other types of horse races held all over the world, as well as wagering options. Those who bet on horse races can choose to bet on individual horses or groups of horses in accumulator bets. In most cases, a wager is placed on the winner of the race and additional bets are made on the horses who finish second or third.
To win a race, a horse must be the first to cross the finish line. If two or more horses finish at the same time, a photo finish is used to determine the winner. In this process, a photo of the finish line is closely examined by stewards to see which horse broke the plane of light first. If the photo is unable to decide a winner, the race is declared a dead heat.
Before a race, the trainer selects which horses will compete and plans what each will do in the morning workouts. The trainer can also administer medication to help the horse compete at its best. If a trainer violates rules meant to keep horses safe, it is the responsibility of the governing body to take action against him or her. However, in the past, trainers found to have violated safety rules received minimal punishment.
A jockey is the person who rides a horse during a race. They have a unique relationship with their mounts, whose job is to guide them through the course as quickly as possible. While some jockeys are more skilled than others, all must be able to read the subtleties of each horse and know when to use the whip and when not to.
In the early days of racing, it was often a winner-take-all proposition, but as the sport developed and field races began to predominate, the amount of prize money available started to increase. The most lucrative events today offer purses in the millions of dollars. The winnings are distributed to the top three finishers. In addition, there is an optional supplementary bet known as the show bet that pays to place in any position other than first. The supplemental bet is popular among those who are looking to maximize their returns.