How Horse Racing Has Evolved Over Time

Horse racing is one of the world’s most popular sports, with millions of people tuning in to watch races and placing bets. The sport has a rich history, dating back to ancient Greece. Throughout the centuries, it has evolved with technological advancements and changes to regulations. The popularity of horse racing has also been driven by online betting and live streaming, which has made it accessible to a wider audience.

In the earliest times, horses were used for hunting and war. In the 17th century, a few enthusiasts started breeding them for sport and constructing racetracks. Match races, where two or more horses competed against each other for a purse of cash bets, became popular. The first consolidated list of match races was published in 1729, and grew with the addition of races at other locations, which were recorded by independent observers, who came to be known as keepers of the match book.

By the mid-18th century, the demand for more public races had created open events in which horses were admitted based on age, sex, birthplace and previous performance. Rules were developed that specified the weight of a horse and the number of races he must win to be eligible for the King’s Plates, the original standardized race for six-year-olds, which ran from 1751 to 1823.

The King’s Plates and similar races pitted rival horses from different regions, a format that continues today in the American Triple Crown series. By the early 19th century, horse racing had become a national sensation. The English traveler William Blane wrote that a race at Union Course, Long Island, roused more interest than a presidential election.

Horses can be trained to run fast, but they need “encouragement” to go on when they are tired. They are whipped, or kicked to keep them going, and their lower legs receive a tremendous pounding on oval tracks, straining ligaments, tendons and joints. Mongolian Groom’s lower hind legs were wrapped in blue bandages, and he was wearing a heavy hood to focus his attention on the track ahead.

Many racehorses bleed from their lungs during exercise, a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. To reduce the risk, they are often given a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs. Some of these are intended to mask the underlying injury, while others have performance-enhancing properties.

After the deaths of numerous horses at Santa Anita Park in California, officials pledged to make dozens of new safety rules. But some veterinarians who work in horse racing say the sport remains unsafe for its equine athletes. They describe trainers over-medicating and over-training their horses, pushing them past their limits. This leads to a quick breakdown and an untimely death, either through euthanasia or at the slaughterhouse. Random drug testing is in place, but the results show that a significant number of horses are doping.

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