The Decline of Horse Racing

horse race

Horse racing is one of the world’s oldest sports. It has evolved from a primitive contest of speed and stamina between two horses to a massive public-entertainment business. But its basic concept remains unchanged. A horse races against the clock to be the first to cross a finish line. Bettors place bets on the winner of a race, and also on the number of horses to come in second and third. They can also make accumulator bets, which combine several bets into one.

The earliest horse races were match races between two or at most three horses, arranged as the result of a private wager between two noblemen. After the Crusades English knights brought home swift Arab stallions, and bred them to English mares in order to produce a racehorse with both speed and endurance. The nobility would wager on the speed of these horses and record agreements to this effect in a book, which became known as the “keeper of the match books.”

In modern times, horse races are often held at tracks that feature paved paths rather than dirt, and most include an electronic scoring system. These changes have improved the judging of the performance of horses, but have done little to improve their welfare. The plight of the modern racing horse is a grim one. Pushed to the limits of their abilities, they are subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injuries and enhance performance. They run at speeds so high that their skeletal systems are unprepared to handle them, and they are regularly injured or broken down.

Despite the efforts of many dedicated individuals, the overall health of horse racing is in decline. As more people become aware of the dark side of the industry, its popularity is declining. Increasing numbers of bettors are choosing to take their money elsewhere. The number of horse races is diminishing, as are revenues and attendance. In addition, growing awareness of horse cruelty has fueled a movement to ban horse racing altogether.

Black, whose own horse, McKinzie, was the third-place finisher in this year’s Kentucky Derby, believes that most racehorses are mistreated and suffer from fear. He agrees that horses want stability and calm, but argues that it is not possible to achieve this in a racetrack paddock or in the starting gate before a race.

A bettors eye the color of a horse’s coat in the walking ring before a race to determine whether he is ready to race. If the coat looks bright and rippling, the horse is believed to be in good condition and ready to compete. But if the coat appears dull or ragged, the horse may not be physically fit to race. Horses that balk at the starting gate are usually frightened or angry, Black says. In addition, bettors are often concerned about the mental state of a horse in a starting gate. If the horse is agitated, he will probably run with a shortened stride.