The Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes are iconic horse races. They are renowned for the majesty of their horses, the thundering of their hooves on the ground, and the excitement of the crowds. Horse racing has become an essential part of our culture, and many people love betting on it.
However, there are good reasons to boycott horse races and to stop betting on them. It is not only unjust to wager money on the suffering of other people’s animals, it is also unwise. Betting on horse races props up an exploitative system. A much better way to have a flutter is to place a bet on a sports event in which the participants are willing athletes rather than mistreated animals.
Until recently, the odds on a particular race were calculated by using complex computer models that took into account a variety of factors, such as pedigree, history of winning or losing, speed rating, and career earnings. But those models didn’t always produce the best results, partly because a horse’s heartbeat can increase tenfold during a race from an optimal 25 beats per minute to an excessive 250 beats, leading to exhaustion and sometimes collapse. A researcher at EHESS, France, decided to see whether her model could find a more efficient strategy. She and a fellow mathematician analyzed the data from GPS tracker devices embedded in French racing saddles. They found that the top-performing horses tended to use a strategy of alternating between powerful aerobic muscles that require oxygen, and anaerobic ones that don’t need it but build up waste products that lead to fatigue.
They also found that the most important factor was a horse’s pedigree, which takes into account not only the horse’s parentage, but also the bloodlines of its siblings and other close relatives. This is because pedigrees provide a measure of the genetic potential of a horse.
Other important factors were the distance and class of a race, the quality of its course, the amount of money it had won in previous races, and a horse’s career win percentage. Jockeys, weight, post position, and the horse’s age were all less significant.
Many people are upset at the way that racehorses are treated, and that their bodies are used up until they’re no longer fit to perform. It is not uncommon for horses to be put down after their careers end, or they may be sold for slaughter. However, some owners truly love their horses and make sure they have a happy retirement. Others are not so kind, and they will either destroy or send their horses to auction if they do not win the Triple Crown series of races.