A horse race is a competition in which horses are ridden by jockeys and run over a course of hurdles or obstacles. A prize is offered for the first, second and third places. This form of racing dates back to contests over natural terrain in which church steeples served as landmarks, and the ancient Greek author Xenophon referred to this type of event as early as the 5th century bc. Today, most races are held on artificial tracks with hurdles or other obstacles. A few races are still held over natural courses. A horse race may be a single heat, or it may be a series of heats that are then sorted into final rankings by a panel of stewards and other judges.
The first two finishers, if they are not the same horse, must be picked in a “quinella” wager to have a payoff. This is generally split into a share for the track and a share for breeding or other funds in varying proportions.
Horses may be conditioned to be faster or slower than they might normally run by feeding them a special diet, or by exercising them in special ways. Jockeys can also influence a horse’s speed by the use of their whips.
In the United States, a horse’s speed is emphasized and stamina is less important than it might be in other countries. This is because horse races are a major form of entertainment, and the commercial aspect of the sport drives its development. As a result, races are often timed to the nearest one-fifth of a second, and a few extra feet here and there can make a big difference in the outcome.
As dash racing became the norm, horse jockeys began to use their skill and judgment in coaxing that advantage from their mounts. The look of a horse in the stretch run, known as “lugging in,” is another important indicator of whether it has the edge needed to win a close race.
The number of people participating in a horse race has increased dramatically as betting on the sport has become more popular. The amount of money wagered on the sport has also risen, and many people have turned to horse racing as an alternative to other forms of gambling.
Despite the increase in popularity of horse racing, some people continue to consider it an unfair and dishonest business. In addition, a few people have been accused of engaging in illegal activities in order to gain an unfair advantage in a horse race. These people are referred to as cheats, and they are not welcomed in the horse racing industry.
The horse race metaphor has been used by politicians to describe their campaigns, but critics argue that it emphasizes differences in character (many horses are beautiful) and ignores differences in substance. In addition, the horse-race metaphor can lead to a focus on swing states that are unlikely to decide the election. Despite these criticisms, the horse race metaphor remains a useful tool for political strategists.