A horse race is a sporting event in which horses compete for the fastest time around a track. The races may be on the flat or over a course of jumps and the horses may be ridden or driven, depending on the region and type of race. Spectators place bets on the outcome of a race, which makes horse racing a very profitable industry for betting companies and tracks.
Many horse races are restricted to specific breeds, and the pedigree of a horse is often one of the most important factors in its ability to win a race. Generally, the horse’s sire and dam must both be purebred individuals of the particular breed to be allowed to race. The most prestigious flat horse races are often run over distances between one and four miles, and are considered tests of both speed and stamina.
The first modern horse race was held at Newmarket in England in the 1600s, and the sport quickly gained popularity throughout the world. The sport’s success was greatly assisted by the development of the pari-mutuel system, which standardized the process of placing bets and calculating winning bettors’ payoffs. Until the advent of this system in 1984, bets were manually tallied and managed by bookmakers at each individual track. The introduction of computerized systems and televised races in color also helped to broaden the fan base for the sport.
A number of different types of horse races are run around the world, from Thoroughbred to Quarter Horse to harness. In general, the Thoroughbred is a faster breed than other horse races and can be found at most major racing venues in North America and Europe. Quarter Horses are a bit slower than Thoroughbreds but are popular in most of the United States because they can run shorter distances.
In most horse races, jockeys ride the horses and are responsible for steering them around the course. A good jockey can make a big difference in the outcome of a race. A jockey’s skill is highly rewarded and there are many professional jockeys in North America.
Runners may be classed as either winners or losers, and bettors can make a variety of exotic bets on the outcome of a horse race. Bets are based on the likelihood that a horse will win or lose, and a horse’s odds are posted on the tote board.
The tote system of horse racing is a form of pari-mutuel wagering. Winning bettors receive the money placed on their horses, minus a rake. The number of places paid out in a race varies depending on the number of runners, with three or more being common. In some countries, horses are ranked as placed when they finish in the top two places, and this is how the term “betting to show” is used. In other countries, only the top finishers are ranked as placed.