Horse race is an event in which a human-mounted jockey on top of a horse attempts to win a race by urging it at breakneck speed with a whip. The race may take place around a straight or oval track, over hurdles or obstacles, or — as in the case of steeplechases — both. The horse that crosses the finish line first is declared the winner. While many people watch horse races just for the entertainment value, others have a serious stake in the outcome of a race and may bet money on the horses they are rooting for. In recent years, a growing awareness of the dark side of the horse racing industry has prompted significant improvements in the safety and treatment of horses on and off the racetrack.
The sport of horse racing is a major draw for visitors to the United States and abroad, especially in the summer when many of the country’s most prestigious tracks open. While most horse races are contested by Thoroughbreds, other breeds may compete in a limited number of events called “handicap” races. In these, the weights that competing horses carry are adjusted based on their age (the more immature a horse is, the less weight it carries) and/or sex.
In addition, there are a series of elite races in which horses compete that are known as classics. These are regarded as the best and most difficult to win by horse owners, trainers, and jockeys. A successful run in one of these races is often considered the pinnacle of a career in horse racing and is typically accompanied by large prize money and other perks.
One of the most famous classic races is the Triple Crown series. This is a trio of races that includes the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Only 13 horses have ever won all three of these races to become a Triple Crown champion. Other classics include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Caulfield Cup in Australia, and the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina.
The sport of horse racing is rooted in ancient history, with the first recorded accounts dating back to 700 B.C. In those days, horse races were often held in a stadium where spectators gathered to see chariots pull and rider-mounted knights battle each other. The popularity of this event spread to China, Persia, and other regions of the world.