A race is a contest of speed or stamina between two horses. It may take place on a flat or over jumps (in the case of steeplechases). The winner is the first horse to cross the finish line. It is one of the oldest sports, and its basic concept has undergone little change over the centuries. Today’s horse races are often complex events involving many runners, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and enormous sums of money.
A horse must carry a certain amount of weight during a race, and the more it weighs, the harder it has to work. This is known as the handicap system. There are also sex allowances, so that fillies (female horses) must carry less than males. The weights are adjusted on the basis of a horse’s past performance. The most important races are called Group or Graded, and the highest tier of racing is the Classics.
In a horse race, the person who has placed a bet on a particular runner is referred to as a punter. A punter can be either a member of the public or a professional gambler. The total amount of money that is paid out after a race to the owners of the entrants who finish in the top four or five positions is known as the purse.
The main goal of most thoroughbred horse trainers is to win races for their stables. They train their horses to become winners and hope to resell them at a profit.
Many horses, especially older ones, are pushed beyond their limits and often suffer injuries as a result. This can be a serious problem for the animal, as it can lead to a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. This causes bleeding in the lungs, and is usually caused by a combination of factors such as exertion, tight fitting saddles, and the stress of racing. To prevent this, most horses are given a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs that mask injuries and artificially enhance their performance.
While human athletes are encouraged to achieve the best possible performance, horse racers know that the winning time of a race is not necessarily an indicator of the horse’s ability. The record of a horse’s winning time is modified by a variety of human inputs including its position in the starting gates, its tactics, the ‘going’ of the race and the jockey’s riding style. In addition, the inherent physical capability of a racehorse is influenced by a range of esoteric factors such as genetic selection and dietary supplements.