A horse race is a sporting event in which humans on horseback compete against one another over a course of varying distance. This competition has a long history in most of the world’s cultures, although it is less popular than it once was. Some people criticize the sport, claiming that it is inhumane or that doping and overbreeding have corrupted it. Others claim that the “Sport of Kings” represents a pinnacle of achievement for its competitors, and that while it may need reform, it is fundamentally sound.
In flat races, the horses must be large and mature; stamina is a major factor, as well as speed. Some races are short sprints, while others are longer, and known as routes in the United States and “staying” races in Europe. A horse may be entered in a handicap race, in which the weights that it must carry during the race are adjusted based on its age, previous performance or other criteria.
The race begins when the horses are led to the starting gate, which is usually electrically operated. After the horses are sent out to begin running, stewards and patrol judges monitor the contest for any rule violations. Depending on the country, these observers may be aided by a moving patrol or cameras to photograph the finish. Saliva and urine samples are also taken from the horses after the race to test for drug use.
A jockey’s job is to mount the horse and direct it during the race, while attempting to gain a lead over one or more of the other horses in the race. A good jockey will be able to control the speed of his horse and make it jump obstacles, but will not force the horse to run beyond its ability. It is a highly skilled occupation, and winning jockeys are in great demand.
A jockey must be very physically fit to perform the job, as the rider must stay on the horse at all times during a race, even if the animal falls or loses its balance. The rider must also be capable of maneuvering the horse through the narrow passages and other tight turns of a racetrack, while also keeping an eye on the other runners.