The Dark Side of Horse Racing

Horse racing is a sport where participants wager on the outcome of a competition between two or more horses. It has been practiced in civilizations around the world since ancient times, and it is often portrayed in literature and mythology. Despite the controversy surrounding its use of animals, many people consider horse racing to be one of the most exciting and challenging sports to watch.

During the pandemic, the sport of horse racing found new fans in an unexpected way. TVG, the all-racing channel included in most cable sports packages, began to offer a beginner’s glossary of racing terms, and NBC Sports broadcast races from Japan, Australia and Hong Kong. In the wake of the deaths at Santa Anita, racing officials rushed to make improvements at their tracks and urged the public to be more aware of the darker side of the industry.

Behind the romanticized facade of horse racing is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. The equine athletes are forced to sprint–often with the aid of whips and illegal electric shock devices–at speeds so fast that they sustain multiple injuries and, at least occasionally, bleed from their lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage). The majority of these horses, who are not the elite few who win the most prestigious races, are given cocktails of legal and illegal drugs designed to mask pain and enhance performance.

The number of horses killed on the track each year is difficult to determine because of a lack of industry regulation, record keeping and transparency. Countless more are abandoned or made to suffer from chronic injuries because of a lack of care and medication, or simply because they have no hope of winning a race.

The sport of horse racing has been around for thousands of years and has played an important role in the development of cultures across the globe. The most prestigious race is the Triple Crown, which is awarded to a winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Other renowned races include the Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup, which are held annually. Each of these events has its own unique rules and regulations, but most are based on the same general principles. The most important factors in determining the winner of a race are the distance, surface, sex, age and training of the horse. The winner is awarded a purse, which is the total amount of money wagered on the horse by the winning bettors, after a percentage is deducted by the track. Other factors that may affect the outcome of a race include the weather, track condition, jockeys and trainers. The sex of the horse and its previous performance are also taken into consideration. Those who do not meet these criteria are disqualified and eliminated from the race. The remaining horses are then placed in a “claimer” race, where the top 10 finishers will be eligible for a prize. This type of race is often used to attract newcomers to the sport and increase betting activity.