A horse race is a sport involving a group of horses who compete in a field to be the first to cross the finish line. The basic concept of horse racing has remained unchanged for centuries, but modern races are complicated affairs with large fields, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and huge sums of money wagered on the outcome.
In the past, the sport was used to demonstrate the top speed of a horse to potential owners by allowing them to ride the horses in races over short distances on open fields or roads. Professional riders, called jockeys, steered the horses from behind using two reins. These races were not contested by the entire herd but were limited to two or three at the most. The sport eventually spread throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Today, horse races take place all over the world. They are run on a variety of surfaces, including dirt, turf and even ice. Many countries have their own national rules, but the majority of them are based on the original British rule book.
Most horse races are handicapped, meaning that the weights that horses must carry during the race are adjusted according to their age and the types of races they have previously run. In addition, some races are conditioned to allow fillies to compete with lighter weights than males.
The starting gate is a section of the track where the horses are released to begin the race. The horse who is quickest out of the gate, known as the front-runner, is the favorite to win the race. This is because the horses who are quickest out of the gate are more likely to be in the lead for most of the race.
As the race continues, the pace of the horses increases as they enter the home stretch. The horses are able to keep up with the pace by using their energy stored in their muscles. The horses that are able to maintain their speed for the longest period of time, also known as stamina, will be the winners.
A few days before the Preakness, all of the horses competing in the race were injected with Lasix, a diuretic, marked on the racing form with a boldface “L.” The drug’s primary function is to prevent pulmonary bleeding, which hard running can cause. A small percentage of thoroughbreds are serious bleeders, so for decades nearly every racehorse in the United States has received a dose of Lasix on race day. The drug’s other function is to make the horses pee a lot. It causes the horses to unload epic amounts of urine—twenty or thirty pounds worth. This makes the race harder for them to finish, but it keeps them from losing too much water weight.