A horse race is a contest in which competitors are given the chance to win a prize by steering their horses around a course and jumping any hurdles (if present) before any of the other participating horses and riders. A number of races exist, but the most prestigious are the Triple Crown series comprised of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Unlike most other sports, horse racing has no governing body, and the rules are largely left to the dozens of states that host it. This can lead to a patchwork of standards and rules, with punishments for violating them varying widely from one state to another.
The most important element of a race is the horse. It must be able to run at a high speed, have agility, and be well trained by the jockey. Jockeys are the people who ride the horses, and they use a whip to encourage the animal to go faster. The whip can be painful for the animal, and many races have restrictions on how often the jockey can use it. A jockey also guides the horse around the track, jumping any hurdles that are present.
Spectators are encouraged to wear fancy outfits and sip mint juleps while watching the race. The reality behind this romanticized facade, however, is that the horses are pushed far beyond their limits and often sustain serious injuries. They are often forced to sprint at such high speeds that they will often bleed from the lungs, a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Those who do not recover from this condition will be euthanized or slaughtered.
In the most prestigious races, a horse is assigned weights to equalize its chances of winning, and it may also be given a sex allowance. A two-year old horse, for example, carries less weight than an older one, and fillies carry lower weights than males. Several other factors can also influence the outcome of a race, including its distance, the condition of the ground, and whether there are any hurdles on the course.
A horse that crosses the finish line first is deemed the winner of the race, though this decision can be decided on a photo finish by stewards who carefully examine a photograph to determine which horse broke the plane of the finishing line first. If no clear winner is determined, the race is a dead heat. The top three finishers are awarded a sum of money. The horse with the highest finish earns the most prize money. Depending on how the competition is conducted, a horse race can have a lasting impact on the company and its management structure. This can be particularly disruptive to the board, as it can lose key senior-level executives who have aligned themselves with an unsuccessful candidate, or strong leaders deeper in the organization who might be drawn to a competing horse. A board considering such a strategy should first consider whether the organization is suited to it, and then adopt strategies that can help minimize disruption.