A horse race is a type of sport in which horses compete against one another for a prize. During the race, the jockey (rider) guides the horse around the course. Horse races are governed by strict rules that regulate what types of horses can race and how the race is conducted. Some people criticize horse racing, saying that it is inhumane and corrupted by drug use. Others feel that the sport offers the pinnacle of achievement for horses and that it should be protected.
There are several different kinds of horse races, including flat races, steeple chases, and hurdle races. Each of these races is held on a specific surface and has its own unique rules. The governing body of the sport sets these rules and also establishes how much prize money is awarded to the winner. In addition to these regulations, the stewards (officials) oversee the integrity of the sport and may disqualify any horse that fails to follow the rules or act dishonorably during a race.
In order to win a horse race, a horse and its rider must cross the finish line before any of the other competitors. If this is not possible, the winner of a race is decided by a photo finish. The stewards closely examine a picture of the finish line to determine which horse broke the plane (crossed it first). If this is not possible, the race is declared a dead heat. In these cases, the top three finishers are each awarded a prize amount.
The history of horse races dates back thousands of years. The earliest were match races between two or at most three horses. Owners provided the money for the purse, and the earliest agreements were recorded by disinterested third parties, who came to be known as keepers of the match book. A keeper would publish an historical list of matches and their results, which became the first true racing calendar.
By the early 1700s, organized horse racing had begun to appear in America. Samuel Ogle, Proprietary Governor of Maryland, began the process of establishing thoroughbred racing in the colonies by ordering an “English style” race at Annapolis in 1745. This race was won by a horse named Selima, owned by Tasker Thornton, whose victory fueled passions in Maryland over the rivalry with Virginia.
The success of Selima and other racehorses fueled a national interest in the sport. This interest was heightened by the advent of new oval tracks that allowed spectators to see the action better. The prestige and riches that were associated with winning a horse race inspired breeders to produce faster, leaner horses. British soldiers returning from the desert battle fronts with stories of their opponents’ amazing sprinting horses inspired the creation of a new breed, the Thoroughbred. These leaner and faster horses became the standard by which modern racehorses are judged.