Horse racing is a sport in which a human being rides a thoroughbred horse around a track in order to win money. It is one of the oldest sports in the world, with archeological evidence of it occurring in Ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria and Arabia. It is considered a very dangerous sport due to the speed and power of the horses, as well as the risk of injury to riders.
The races are usually run over distances ranging from 440 yards (400 m) to four miles (6 km), although they can be shorter or longer. Those that are shorter are generally called sprints and those that are longer are known as routes in the United States and “staying races” in Europe. Both types of races require fast acceleration (“a turn of foot”), but routes are more demanding on a horse’s stamina.
There are many different rules governing horse racing, and they differ depending on the country and the race type. Some races are open to all entrants, while others are restricted by age, sex, birthplace or previous performance. In addition, there are handicapped races, in which a fixed amount of weight is assigned to each runner according to their ability.
In some countries, the equine industry is regulated by laws and organizations that govern training and breeding practices. These regulations are meant to prevent fraud, ensure safety and promote responsible gambling. Some of these organizations also regulate the race day operation. A number of horse races have been discontinued due to these regulations, but there are still many that are run.
Some people may enjoy watching the races, while others place bets on the results. In the latter case, bettors usually make a Win and Place bet, which pays out three ways if the horse wins and two ways if it places second. In some cases, bettors may make an Exacta wager, which pays out only if the first two finishers are picked in exact order.
When a bet is placed on a specific horse, it must be accepted by the racebook and the odds are adjusted accordingly. The odds for the horse are calculated using a computer program and can vary from track to track, based on the demand for a particular horse and its past performances.
A race’s results are often published in a form book, which contains a listing of all the horses in the race along with their owners, trainers, weights, and other information. A horse’s “trip” is also listed, which describes the difficulty or ease of the race. For example, a horse’s trip might describe whether it ran wide or was boxed in by other runners.
A great race is a moment in time when a horse displays exceptional brilliance. Among the most famous examples are Secretariat’s 31-length Belmont victory in 1973 and Arkle’s six-length annihilation of an international field in 1965. Other examples are the great “head-to-heads” such as Sea Bird’s performance in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Epsom Derby.