A horse race is a competition in which horses compete to cross a finish line first. Horses are usually tethered to a jockey who helps guide them along the race track. When the horse crosses the finish line first, it wins the race and receives a prize money sum. If two or more horses reach the finish line at the same time, a photo finish is used to determine the winner. During a photo finish, the stewards examine a close-up photograph of the race’s finish to decide which horse broke the plane (or “broke the beam”) first. If the stewards cannot determine a winner, the race is ruled a dead heat.
Before a race begins, horses are positioned in stalls or behind a starting gate. In some races, such as steeple chases or hurdle races, a flag is used instead of the starting gates. A horse that starts before the rest of the field is declared a false start and may be disqualified or subject to further sanctions.
A jockey’s riding technique and skill is vital to a horse’s performance during a race. A well-trained and skilled jockey can coax a reluctant or stubborn horse to go faster. A good jockey will also know when to use the whip to encourage his or her mount to speed up and when to let the horse run its own pace.
In addition to being a popular sport, horse racing is an important industry. It provides employment for thousands of people, including veterinarians and breeders. It also serves as a source of entertainment for the public and generates billions of dollars in revenue. However, the safety of racehorses is frequently overlooked by the industry. The sport places too many demands on the young, immature equine body and is rife with drugs and abuse that can lead to gruesome breakdowns and even death.
While racehorses are often described as a majestic creatures, they are actually delicate animals that are highly susceptible to injury and disease. Aside from their physical limitations, they are forced to run at speeds that can cause serious injuries and bleeding in the lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage). Horses are also routinely administered cocktail of legal and illegal medications to mask their injuries and enhance their performances.
Breeding is a key factor in horse racing, with most races restricted to specific types of horses such as Thoroughbreds. Typically, horses must be accepted into the breed and be given papers by several stud books before they can begin competing in official races. Those who have won a significant number of races are referred to as champions. In addition, the winning jockey is referred to as the most important person in a race. He or she is rewarded for his or her success with a large percentage of the total prize money. The rest of the money is divided among all other competitors in a particular race. This is known as the parimutuel system of wagering.