The Dangers of Horse Racing

horse race

Horse racing has always been a dangerous sport. Its history includes both gruesome accidents and scandalous abuse of its animals. But it has also produced spectacular feats of skill and athleticism, bringing millions of people to the track. In the United States, there are more than 1,500 racetracks, and many of them are open to the public for free or very low cost. A horse race is a wager on the outcome of a competitive event involving two or more horses. In the United States, horse races are regulated by federal and state laws.

The first organized horse race in North America was held in 1664, during the British occupation of New Amsterdam (now New York City). The British brought the game to America, and the standard for success became stamina rather than speed. The American Thoroughbred is a descendant of these early European equine pioneers.

In the backstretch at Santa Anita, the horses shifted into a loping gallop. From the grandstand, the pack appeared hypnotic in the pinkish light, their movements huge and fluid. War of Will, the favorite, hugged the inside and held the lead. Mongolian Groom and McKinzie were close behind, with Vino Rosso on the outside.

When trainers know their horses well, they can place them in races that fit their abilities and needs. Some races are limited to a specific age or gender, while others have specific distance or girth requirements. The most common categories of horse races are claiming races, in which the horses compete for a predetermined sum of money. About 70% of all races in North America are claiming races.

The horses had been injected that morning with Lasix, a diuretic noted on the race form with a boldface L. The drug is supposed to prevent the pulmonary bleeding that hard running causes in most horses. (The condition is called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or eiph.) Lasix is just one of a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs used to mask injuries, increase performance, and make winners look good.

The drug controversy in horse racing is complicated. A slew of modern medications designed for humans have crossed over from medical use to raceday preparation, and the racing industry’s testing capacity is limited. A few of the more potent painkillers, antipsychotics, growth hormones, and blood doping substances have made their way onto the track. Media scholars have long studied the effect of news stories that treat elections as a horse race and focus on who’s ahead and who’s behind. When that happens, voters and candidates lose out.