What is Horse Racing?
Horse racing is a sport that involves betting on the outcome of a contest between horses. The game has been popular for thousands of years and is considered one of the oldest sports in history. It has evolved from a primitive contest of speed or stamina between two horses into a modern spectacle with sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, enormous fields of runners and huge purses. However, despite the enormous sums of money involved, the basic concept remains unchanged. The horse that crosses the finish line first wins the race.
The most famous horse races in the world are held in Europe, Australia, South America and the United States. In the United States, horse racing is a multibillion-dollar industry that generates more wagering dollars than any other sport. In addition to the huge purses for the winning horses, many jockeys, owners and trainers receive substantial earnings from the wagers placed on their mounts. Some of the largest horse races in the world are the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Dubai World Cup.
While most Americans have no problem with the idea of horse racing as a sport, for others, it is not only unethical but also downright cruel to the animals that are forced to run for their livelihoods. According to Patrick Battuello, a horse racing activist and the founder of the animal rights group Horseracing Wrongs, ten thousand American thoroughbreds are slaughtered each year. Even those who are not slaughtered often have a difficult life in confinement, with a large number of them spending their lives in solitary stalls.
Battuello believes that the exploitation of horses in racing is caused by the fact that it is considered to be a “sport” and not simply an entertainment form of gambling. This is in part because of the large amounts of money that are placed on the races and because of the comparatively high stakes for jockeys, owners and trainers. In addition, he claims that racetrack officials and television networks give the appearance that the sport is well-regulated.
In reality, Battuello asserts that racetrack officials rely on a variety of drugs to ensure the safety and competitiveness of their “equine athletes.” Among these are steroid and diuretic medications, such as Lasix, which is noted on the racing form with a boldface L. Lasix is injected into the lungs of the horses to prevent pulmonary bleeding that occurs during hard running, a condition that can be dangerous for the animals. The drug has a secondary effect, causing horses to dump epic amounts of urine during the race–up to thirty pounds worth.
Horses’ performance is influenced by the amount of weight they have to carry, as well as other factors such as their age, gender and training. Those that are most favored are those that compete in “conditions” races, which typically offer the highest purses. In these races, a horse is assigned a specific amount of weight to be carried for fairness, and allowances are made for younger horses or those that are female when they compete against males.