A horse race is a contest of speed between horses, usually ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies. It may be an organized event held at a race track or on open land, and it can involve a large number of runners competing for the first place. It is considered one of the oldest sports, and it has evolved into a spectacular spectacle with sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment and enormous sums of money involved. Nevertheless, its essential feature remains the same: the horse that crosses the finish line first wins the race. The popularity of horse racing has varied over the centuries, but in the 1930s impoverished state governments turned to it as a potential honey pot for tax revenues, and the sport boomed.
The sport has a dark side, though, and growing awareness of it threatens its future. Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred racing is a world of drug abuse, injuries, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. Spectators show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps while horses are forced to sprint, often under the threat of whips or illegal electric shock devices, at speeds that can cause severe injuries and even fatal hemorrhages from the lungs.
Some horses are not fit to be raced and must be euthanized, while others suffer from a variety of ailments including chronic lameness, arthritis from pounding runs, and untreatable fractures and torn tendons that require euthanasia or a long and painful journey to foreign slaughterhouses. A significant percentage of racing horses die each year. The industry must address these issues if it is to remain competitive and sustainable.
Many race fans make a bet on which horse will win a particular race, and some bettors take part in accumulator bets in which they place multiple bets at various times during the course of the race. Some people also bet on the winner of a particular division or group of races, and there are also bets in which participants predict the total amount of winning bets across all the races in a given day or period.
A handicap race is a special type of horse race in which the weights that each competing horse must carry during a race are adjusted according to their age and previous performance. For example, a two-year-old will compete with more weight than an older horse, and sex allowances are given in which female horses receive lower weights.
Media scholars have studied horse race reporting for decades in order to better understand the power of media to frame elections and influence voter behavior. This election cycle, however, has felt less like a horse race than in many past cycles, largely because of the rise of quick-turnaround polling, which has made it much harder for the media to influence voters in key swing states. This has reduced the impact of horse race coverage on the final outcome of a race, but it has not eliminated it entirely. Nonetheless, the importance of horse race coverage should not be underestimated as it provides valuable insight into how voters perceive different candidates and their policies.