A horse race is a contest of speed and stamina over a set distance. A horse may run the race solo or in a group of other horses, and its size, style of running, and veterinary care are important considerations in its chances of winning. In the United States, races are largely commercial and emphasize speed; in Europe, where racing dates back to the fifth century, large mature horses with stamina are prized. Most horse races are held on flat courses, but steeplechases – contests over jumps ranging from hurdles to ditches – are also common.
Racing is a multimillion-dollar industry, and the sport draws millions of fans to tracks around the world. The earliest horse races were match contests between two, or at most three, horses. As the sport grew in popularity, a rider’s skill and judgment became crucial to winning.
In the United States, a typical horse race is a one-and-a-half mile (4-kilometer) marathon, while European races are typically over shorter distances. A horse must be well trained to run at this distance, requiring months of daily work. A trainer’s job is to prepare a horse to run the distance by increasing its speed, improving its endurance, and developing its ability to withstand intense physical activity.
Most horse races are contested by thoroughbreds, the most common breed of horse for racing. Thoroughbreds are bred and raised to run, but they do not achieve their peak performance until they are at least five years old. The sport is dominated by money, and many owners prefer to keep horses in training as long as possible to maximize profits. Consequently, many horses continue to race past their optimum age. This practice is a major cause of catastrophic injuries and the death of thousands of horses every year in the United States.
After a horse’s career as a racehorse ends, it often ends up in a slaughterhouse, where its flesh is used for glue and dog food. Many of the horses that are killed for this purpose are half-breds, which are less expensive than purebreds and thus more attractive to racing owners.
In recent years, a spate of horse deaths at Santa Anita and other venues in the United States has led to reforms intended to improve racetrack safety. For example, protocol now requires a necropsy whenever a horse dies on-track, and a review of contributing factors and vet records. However, these changes do not affect all racing areas, and many horses remain in danger of injury or death. The Times is examining these issues and reporting on efforts to improve the quality of racetrack care for horses. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please use the form below to contact us. You can also access today’s racing results here. To view results from further in the past, you can use the date picker. To watch live video replays of selected fixtures click on the TV symbol in the top right corner of the page.