A horse race is a sporting event in which horses run over distances. In the United States, the most common races are sprints and distance races; in Europe, they are also known as “routes.” Short sprints are seen as tests of speed, while long-distance races are seen as tests of stamina.
A horse is ridden by a jockey, who guides it through the course of the race. The rider’s skill, judgment and ability to coax the horse’s top speed can determine the winner of the race.
Horse racing began in England around the 17th century. It developed from match races, where the owner of each horse provided a purse and bettors made wagers on which horse would win. These matches were recorded by disinterested third parties, who came to be known as keepers of the match book.
Early races were usually between two or three horses, with an owner who withdrawn from the match losing half of his bet or more. As the sport gained popularity, more and more bets were placed on individual horses. In time, these bets grew to include a large portion of the total purse and horses were grouped together to form larger fields.
In England, there are a number of different types of horse races, including the St. Leger, Oaks and Derby. The Derby is considered to be the most famous of these and is run in May each year.
The Derby has become one of the most prestigious and lucrative races in the world, and is the starting point for the Triple Crown series. Only eleven horses have won all three of these races in a single year since 1978, making it a very challenging and difficult task for a horse to complete.
There are a number of different organizations involved in the horse business: owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, track operators and fans. Each of these groups has its own motivations, which often conflict.
Unlike other sports, there are no national governing bodies for horse racing; each state organization is self-regulating and acts to promote its own interests. This often leads to a lack of cooperation across states and can result in uneven quality of competition.
Some states, such as New York, have been successful in creating a more unified approach to horse racing. In 1997, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) was formed, but it is not yet able to control racing.
Today, racing is a multi-billion dollar industry with major race tracks in every state in the country. The sport has benefited from advances in technology, such as thermal imaging cameras that detect when a horse overheats post-race and MRI scanners, X-rays, and endoscopes that allow veterinarians to monitor the health of horses before and after races.
There are a number of different ways to watch a horse race, including online. There are also television broadcasts of many races. The sport is also increasingly regulated by state governments.