Horse racing is a sport in which people wager on the outcome of a competition between two animals. The winner takes the money wagered by spectators, a sum known as a purse. The sport has been around for thousands of years. While it has changed with the times, it has also kept some of its traditions and remains popular in many countries.
A jockey is the person who rides a horse in a race. He or she must be trained well enough to keep the animal under control and prevent it from bucking or bolting during the race. The jockey is also responsible for steering the horse to ensure it is following the course and not straying from it. A rider may use a whip to encourage the horse and keep it moving forward at the right speed.
The first horse races took place in ancient Greece between 700 and 40 B.C. At that time, riders competed in four-hitched chariot and bareback races. The sport soon spread to neighboring regions and has since evolved into the modern version of horse racing, which is now found all over the world.
During a horse race, the horses must run around a circular track and complete certain tasks, such as a gauntlet or a slalom. The race is a test of strength, agility and endurance. The sport can be as simple or complex as the racer wishes it to be. It can involve a single race or several races over the course of a day.
The most prestigious races have the largest purses, and are known as conditions races. In these races, each horse is assigned a weight to carry that allows it to be compared against the other runners. In these races, a horse’s performance can be influenced by its age, sex, position in the starting gate, training, and more.
In the United States, Thoroughbred races are typically held over 11/2-mile (4-kilometer) courses. Historically, larger, mature horses were preferred for racing, and stamina was just as important as speed. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, races are often over a much longer distance, and the emphasis is placed more on speed than on stamina.
A horse race begins with the lining up of all the horses at the starting gates. A horse’s coat is usually inspected in the walking ring before the race, to determine whether it is bright and ripe with muscled excitement. The brighter a horse’s coat, the better it is expected to perform in the race. If a horse balks at the start, it is considered frightened or angry and may not be able to perform its best in the race.
During the Civil War, Union officials promoted thoroughbred breeding in order to provide cavalry horses for the Union army. The race industry expanded rapidly after the Civil War, and by 1861 most American races were conducted on thoroughbreds. By the late 1800s, horse racing was a sensation throughout the country, drawing crowds that sometimes numbered in the tens of thousands.