The Basics of a Horse Race

Horse racing has evolved into a multi-million dollar spectacle with sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment and enormous sums of money up for grabs, but its basic concept has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries. It is a contest of speed or stamina between two horses in which the horse that crosses the finish line first is declared the winner. Throughout the centuries, races have been held in chariots, on foot, and on a variety of artificial surfaces, but the essential nature of the sport has not changed.

A few decades ago, the deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit prompted a much-needed reckoning of this sport’s ethics and integrity. But that does not mean the end of racing’s exploitation of young horses. It’s still taking place as you read this, and every year thousands of new foals blink their way into the world, all of them destined for a career that can be short and brutal.

In the heyday of a well-oiled machine like this, horses can be whipped and drugged and trained to the point of collapse and death in order to win a race or fill a stable position. The for-profit industry may be able to dodge most criticism by appealing to the public’s appetite for gambling and the mythology of the noble racehorse, but a respectable future for racing requires an open-minded discussion about the true nature of these athletes who are pushed to the brink, then killed.

A race can be won or lost by a fraction of a second, and a few hundred yards can make the difference between winning and losing. For this reason, it is important that a jockey has an eye for the subtle nuances of a race. He must be able to discern whether the horse is tiring or has a good chance of finishing in a photo finish, which occurs when two or more horses cross the finish line so close that it is impossible to determine the winner by the naked eye.

In this case, the winning horse is determined by studying a photograph of the final stretch taken by an official called a steward. When a horse is deemed to be the winner by the stewards, the horse’s owners receive the prize money. If the stewards are unable to decide on a winner, a dead heat is declared. Researchers Johanna Dunaway and Regina G. Lawrence found that newspaper chains and corporate-owned papers are more likely to publish articles that frame elections as a game of horse race. This is especially true in close races and during the weeks leading up to Election Day.