Horse races are a spectacle to many spectators, but behind the romanticized facade is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. These animals are forced to sprint—often under threat of whips and illegal electric shocking devices—at speeds so fast that they sustain injuries to their muscles, ligaments, tendons, lungs and internal organs. Many end up with permanent disabilities, such as brain damage and blindness. Despite this, people keep coming to watch them race and place bets with the hope of winning big. To make a profit, they are fed drugs like opiate painkillers and stimulants. Their owners rely on donations from fans and industry folks to continue the exploitation, even as fresh young foals blink into existence.
The first recorded horse racing dates back to the Greek Olympic Games in 700 to 40 B.C. The sport was widely spread, with four-hitch chariot and mounted (bareback) races appearing in countries such as China, Persia and Arabia. The sport eventually migrated to Europe, where it continued to evolve into the sport we know today.
It’s hard to determine when exactly horse racing became standardized and organized, but historians have some clues. It was likely the result of a combination of factors, including increasing globalization and the emergence of the industrialized breeding and training of thoroughbred horses.
In the beginning, it was important for a horse to have both speed and stamina in order to win a race. The speed skill was more important in shorter races and the stamina skill was more important for long-distance events such as marathons.
A lot of people enjoy betting on horse races and placing wagers on which horse will finish in the top two or three places. There are three ways you can bet money on a horse race: bet to win, bet to place and bet to show. When you bet to win, you’re predicting that your chosen horse will finish in the first place. Bet to place means that you’re predicting that your horse will finish either first or second and bet to show is a prediction that your horse will finish in one of the top thirds.
If you’re unsure of the rules of a particular race, check the official rules book. This will give you a detailed description of how the race is run and will include the various terms used to describe positions in a race, such as “in the money,” which refers to finishing in the top four or five and earning a share of the purse. You can also find the rulebook on the horse’s website. The website will usually have a link that you can click to get the latest version of the rulebook.