Horse racing is a sport where horses race at high speeds under the direction of jockeys (also called riders). The horses wear saddles, which are usually covered with padded cloths to protect them from injuries while they run. The sport is also dangerous for the horses, who can fall and get kicked, especially when they are close to other horses in a race. Injuries such as cracked leg bones and hooves are common in the sport, which often requires a high level of fitness for the horses and riders.
Many people criticize the practice of horse races, claiming that it is inhumane and corrupted by doping and overbreeding. Others argue that the “Sport of Kings,” as it is sometimes called, represents the pinnacle of achievement for its competitors and should be preserved. The sport may need reform, but serious reform would likely require the cooperation of its many stakeholders.
Some of these stakeholders are the race track owners and operators, who often have competing interests in their horse racing operations. Others are the breeders, who have a financial incentive to produce fast horses and sell them to the highest bidders. Still others are the trainers, who are paid a fee for each horse they train and ride in a race. The trainers also receive a commission on bets placed on their horses. Amateur jockeys, who are not paid a salary for their work, are allowed to compete in some races.
In a race, the winner is the first horse to reach the finish line. If more than one horse finishes in the same position, the bets are split and the winnings divided proportionally between the horses. In some cases, a horse will dead-heat, which means that it is tied with another horse in terms of place but not in overall finishing order.
A horse that is considered to be a favorite or ‘first string’ in a race is given a higher ‘claiming price’ than its stablemates. This is because the trainer/owner has more confidence in this horse to perform well and so will be willing to risk more money on it than his other horses. Clues that a horse is a favourite can include carrying the trainer/owner’s first colours, being ridden by a stable jockey or being shorter in the betting odds than its stablemates.
A horse that is considered to be a potential classic contender is being targeted by connections to enter a Group or Grade 1 race. These are the highest tier of racing events and include such races as the 2,000 Guineas, the Oaks, the Derby and the St Leger in Britain. Each year a number of horses are allocated an official handicap rating depending on their performances and this determines the weight they carry in the different races they run in. Horses with a high speed figure are more likely to be considered as potential classic contenders.