The Horse Race Strategy

Horse racing is a sport that dates back centuries and is one of the oldest forms of public entertainment. Over time, it has developed from a primitive contest of speed or stamina between two animals into a modern multi-billion dollar industry that attracts millions of spectators and competitors worldwide. While the rules of the game have evolved, its basic concept remains unchanged. The horse that crosses the finish line first is declared the winner.

Individual flat horse races are conducted on a variety of surfaces, including dirt and grass, and may be run over sprint (short distances) or distances that require a more sustained effort, such as routes or long-distance races. Sprints are considered to be a test of acceleration, while longer distances are more akin to a marathon and can be more a test of endurance. Horses are typically assigned a weight to carry in each race for fairness, but the performance of horses in a given race can also be influenced by age, track conditions, distance, sex, and training.

The earliest known records of horse races are from the Greek Olympic Games, which took place from 700 to 40 B.C. During this period, both four-hitched chariot races and mounted (bareback) races were popular forms of public entertainment. As civilizations around the world developed, organized horse racing spread to such diverse locales as China, Persia, Babylon, and Arabia.

In North America, the sport of horse racing has evolved from an activity limited to a handful of small, local tracks into an international industry that contributes over $15 billion annually to the country’s economy. The development of computerized pari-mutuel betting systems in 1984 and the subsequent expansion of televised horse races have been instrumental in broadening the sport’s popularity, drawing new generations of fans to the thrill and spectacle of horse racing.

Proponents of the horse race strategy suggest that an overt competition among several executives for the top job can bring a wide array of benefits to the organization. By establishing a system of leadership development that allows high performers to compete for the role, it signals to employees that the board and company management have faith in their talent, and that the best leader will emerge from the contest.

On the other hand, critics of this approach point to the many risks associated with a lengthy and contentious CEO succession process, including the possibility that an overly competitive environment will discourage collaboration and teamwork in other critical functions. In addition, some directors are apprehensive that a prolonged race will distract the company from its core business and that it will ultimately harm the bottom line. They therefore strive mightily to limit the length of the contest and the number of candidates. However, companies that are successful with the horse race strategy cultivate a culture where employees embrace the idea that competition for the top position is a natural and healthy part of company life. As a result, they often find themselves able to attract and retain highly skilled talent, even in tough economic times.