A horse race is a competition between horses in which the winner takes all the money wagered, known as the purse. Horse races are popular throughout the world, and betting on them is a major part of the sport. Bettors can wager on individual horses or groups of horses, and they may place a bet to win, place, or show. The winner of the race is determined by whichever horse crosses the finish line first.
The earliest horse races in America were match races between two horses over several four-mile heats. They were followed by a series of races in which a group of horses ran around a track. The Civil War, the Indian Wars, and other conflicts increased the popularity of horse racing because the Union military needed fast cavalry horses. During the war, breeding improved and thoroughbreds became more prevalent.
When horses run, their legs take a terrible beating. Running on an oval track gives the lower legs a particular pounding, straining ligaments, tendons, and joints. Racehorses are usually whipped to keep them going hard and need encouragement to continue when they’re tired. Often, a horse that stops running early in a race is called “airing.”
While a horse is in the middle of the pack, it can’t easily jump over its rivals and is vulnerable to being knocked back into an uncomfortable position. For this reason, a horse must stay in the front of the pack at all times. A horse in the middle of the pack is often referred to as being in the “kissing gate.”
It’s also common for fans to place bets on the winners of a race, placing their money on either the first, second, or third placed horses. Those who bet to win are playing it safe, and those who bet to place and show are taking the riskier route.
Although horse racing has long been a popular spectator sport, the industry faces challenges as it competes with other forms of gambling and with professional and collegiate team sports. Its customers tend to be older, and would-be new patrons are turned off by doping scandals and other problems. In addition, horse racing has failed to embrace television, which could help it attract more young people. Moreover, many horse races are held at venues that are difficult to access for a lot of Americans.