There’s nothing quite like feeling the earth shake as a mass of thundering hooves rush by in the stretch run of a horse race. Whether you’re a serious race fan or just passing through, horse racing is a uniquely American sport. Some people criticize it as inhumane and corrupt, while others think the “Sport of Kings” is the pinnacle of human achievement and deserves a place in society. Still, some argue that the sport needs major reforms to survive and thrive.
Horse races are conducted according to a set of rules that vary slightly between different national horse racing organisations. However, most of the rulebooks are based on the British Horseracing Authority’s original rules.
Generally, there are three categories of people in horse racing: the crooks who dangerously drug their horses and who dare the industry to catch them; the dupes who labor under the fantasy that the sport is broadly fair and honest; and the masses in the middle, honorable souls who know the game is more crooked than it ought to be but are too lazy or cowardly to do anything about it.
In horse racing, there are numerous terms that have special meanings. Some are technical, while others are slangy and used to describe particular horses or jockeys. Some of the most important are:
BEARING- A horse carries its weight more than usual, indicating fatigue or injury. BRAKING- Applying pressure to the feet of a horse to discourage it from running too hard in the early stages of a race. CARRYING- The amount of weight a horse must carry in a race, determined by its age, distance, sex and time of year. SCHOOLING- The process of preparing a horse to race in the starting gate or paddock. CRASHING- The act of a horse collapsing in mid-race and often the cause of death of a racehorse.
CORNERS- The number of turns a track has. COMBINED WITH FIRST TURN- A race where two or more runners are tied at the finish line and the winner is decided by a photo finish.
EQUINE CRASHES- When a horse is injured or dies on the track, it is required that protocols be followed, including a necropsy and an examination of contributing factors. Many states, including California and New York, keep public databases cataloguing equine injuries and deaths.
FIELD- The group of horses competing in a race. FOURTH TURN- The final turn of a race, usually a straightaway that is long enough to be a quarter mile.
FINISHING IN THE MONEY- When a horse finishes in the top four and receives a share of the prize money.
The sport of horse racing is inherently controversial. Some people believe that it is inhumane, that horses are forced to perform in these cruel conditions and that it should be banned altogether. Others, on the other hand, feel that horse racing is an incredibly exciting and rewarding pastime, even though it requires some of the most grueling training and conditioning for the horses involved.