What is a Horse Race?

horse race

With all the mudslinging, name calling and attack ads, it’s easy for the real issues to get lost in the election shuffle. And it’s especially easy to lose sight of what the contest actually is—a horse race, a tight race that requires skill and judgment from both candidates.

Horse races are contested between two or more horses that have been ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies (horse-drawn coaches). The sulkies are mounted on the front of the horse and the rider controls them to speed up, slow down or change course when necessary. The object of the game is to win a sum of money by crossing a finish line first. The winner is declared by a team of stewards after the race is over, often using photographs of the finish line.

While the sport has evolved from a primitive contest of speed or stamina to a modern spectacle with fields of thousands of runners, the basic concept remains unchanged. Regardless of how many other fancy equipment and sophisticated electronic monitoring systems might be used, the winning horse must cross the finish line before all the others.

In addition to being a popular spectator sport, horse racing is also a multibillion-dollar business. But the glitzy veneer of Thoroughbred racing masks a brutal world in which these athletes are drugged, whipped, trained and raced too young, and pushed to their limits. They suffer injuries like broken legs and fetlocks, and are subjected to electric shocks that can cause hemorrhaging in their lungs. And, as if this weren’t enough, some—estimated by animal rights activists at 10 thousand per year in the United States alone—are slaughtered for their meat.

A number of different national horse-racing organizations have rules for how races are run, but they all essentially share the same basic principles. For example, all horses must be injected with Lasix on race day to prevent pulmonary bleeding that results from hard running. This is why horse races are referred to as “a bloodsport.”

The race is over when the stewards determine that the winning horse has crossed the finish line before all the other horses. If the stewards cannot decide on a single winner, they settle the race according to dead heat rules.

This method of deciding the winner is not always accurate, however. In 2004, 2006 and 2008, researchers Johanna Dunaway and Regina G. Lawrence analyzed print newspaper coverage of state and U.S. Senate elections, finding that corporate-owned and large-chain newspapers were more likely to frame the election as a horse race than small and independent outlets. This bias was most evident in close races and during the weeks leading up to Election Day. However, this year has felt less like a horse race than previous election cycles. That’s because this time around, it’s a lot cheaper to poll in swing states, and the polling precision required hasn’t been as precise as in the past. That could change, though, if the economy takes a dive and voters become more jaded.