Horse racing is a sport that involves the training of horses to compete in races against each other. It is a fast-paced sport that requires the use of high-tech monitoring equipment, and huge sums of money can be wagered on the outcome of a race. It has long been a popular spectator sport, but it is also an important business that helps finance many other sports and activities around the world. While the basic concept of a horse race has remained unchanged over centuries, there have been numerous technological advances that have helped make the sport more efficient and safer for both horses and humans.

Before the start of a race, horses are brought out into the walking ring to be examined and prepared. Then, jockeys take their mounts to the starting gate. The gate staff will look at a horse’s coat to determine whether it is bright and rippling with the right amount of sweat, which means that it is ready to run. When the race begins, all eyes are on the horses as they break from the gate and rush down the track. The winner is the first to cross the finish line.

The earliest races were match races between two or three horses, with each owner providing the purse (the amount of money to be paid out to the winners). When a horse withdrew from a race, it would forfeit half the purse or later the entire prize fund. Agreements about these arrangements were recorded by disinterested third parties, known as keeper of the match book. One such keeper at Newmarket in England published An Historical List of All Horse-Matches Run (1729).

By the 18th century, the demand for more public races had produced open events with larger fields of runners. Eligibility rules were developed based on the age, sex, birthplace, and performance of horses, as well as the qualifications of owners and riders. Races were created in which horses had to be owned by gentlemen, in which races were limited geographically to a township or county, and in which only certain types of horses could run.

These changes made the sport more professional, but they did not necessarily improve the welfare of horses or protect the rights of the people who worked in it. In the 21st century, the industry was forced to deal with increased public scrutiny and mounting animal-rights concerns. In 2020 Congress passed legislation requiring stricter safety standards and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority began enforcing these standards in 2022.

Today’s horse races have evolved into a spectacular spectacle that draws crowds of spectators and offers many betting opportunities. Spectators can place bets on their favorite horses, and in some countries, betting is legal online. The industry is also constantly improving its safety procedures, with thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners, and 3D printing technology used to create casts and splints. In addition, a variety of drugs are available to help horses perform at their best.

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