A horse race is a sporting event in which horses compete for money or other prizes. It is one of the most popular spectator sports worldwide and a form of gambling. It is also known as a parimutuel, which means that winners receive all of the money bet by the loser, after a deduction of a percentage by the track. There are several types of horse races, including sprints and long distance races. One of the most famous races is the Palio di Siena, held twice a year on July 2 and August 16 in the Italian city of Siena, in which a horse and rider represent one of the seventeen Contrade (city wards). The event has become an international attraction and has attracted millions of visitors.
A jockey tries to guide his mount along the right path in a race while avoiding obstacles and other riders. He may use his hands to urge the animal forward, or he may swing his arms in a smooth, controlled motion. A horse that is ridden this way is called “handicapped” or a hand rider.
Some races are flat, meaning they are run over a distance that does not require any turning. This type of race is the most common and includes the most prestigious races in the world, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Melbourne Cup and Sydney Cup in Australia, the Caulfield Guineas in South Africa and the Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina.
In a flat race, horses are assigned weights which they must carry during the race. These weights are adjusted based on the age of the horse, the race distance, the sex of the horse and its past performance. The most famous races are handicapped, which makes them more challenging and exciting for the spectators.
Horses must be trained extensively in order to prepare them for racing. This can be expensive and time consuming. Trainers have many tools at their disposal to train the horses, including a whip. However, it is important to understand that a horse is not a machine and that beating it with a whip can cause serious injury or death.
An injured horse may not be able to finish the race, and in these circumstances the jockey may decide to scratch (withdraw the horse from the race) or to “rate” the animal (restrain it early on in the race). If a horse scratches, the trainer will usually not receive any of the winnings. If a horse rates, the trainer will typically be required to pay a penalty to the race track.
While the racing industry likes to tout its claim that horses are “born to run, love to compete,” the truth is that horse racing is unequivocally unnatural. The sedatives that keep horses calm for the race come at a high cost to their health. These animals are thrust into intensive training at a very young age — the equivalent of an elementary school child.