The horse race is one of the oldest sports, and its basic concept has changed little over the centuries. Although it has evolved into a sophisticated spectacle involving large fields of runners, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and enormous sums of money, it is still fundamentally a contest of speed and stamina between two horses. The horse that crosses the finish line first is declared the winner. The sport has many critics, who contend that it is inhumane or corrupt and that the exploitation of animals is its defining feature. However, others consider the sport to be an honorable and exciting pastime and believe that the practice of racing is fundamentally sound.
Some of the most prestigious races in the world are run over distances ranging from six furlongs (four miles) to 12 and a half furlongs (20 miles). Most flat races are seen as tests of speed, while some longer races test both speed and stamina.
Horses are often forced to race before their bodies are fully mature, and they are not prepared to handle the rigors of running on a hard track at high speeds. This can result in injuries and breakdowns, which are costly for owners and trainers. Furthermore, horses are often trained in harsh conditions and are exposed to dangerous drugs.
As a result, the equine industry is plagued with scandal and cruelty. The most famous examples include the deaths of Seabiscuit and Man o’ War, as well as the horrific abuse of horses at “bush tracks.”5
Despite a declining fan base and shrinking revenue, horse racing has continued to invest in improvements in the health and safety of its horses. This investment has been fueled in part by growing awareness of horse-racing’s dark side. Increasing public pressure has also led to improved enforcement of rules regarding animal welfare and illegal drug use on the track.
Aside from these positive developments, however, horse racing still has a long way to go to address its cruel history and modern-day reputation as a for-profit, predatory business. Most importantly, it must provide a comprehensive, fully funded, industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution for all horses once they leave the track.
An agent is a person empowered to transact business for a stable owner or jockey, and an individual who obtains rides for a jockey. A veterinary steward is a veterinarian who inspects horses before and during races and is responsible for ensuring that a steward’s regulations are adhered to by all participants.
A stoop is a position a horse assumes when it begins its race, and is usually the sign of a tired horse. The Look of Eagles is a phrase used to describe a horse’s confident, powerful appearance, most commonly seen in the Kentucky Derby. A lug in is when a horse drifts towards the inside rail during the final stretch of a race. A muddy track is a racing surface that has been flooded with water, making it extremely slippery and difficult for horses to maintain traction.