What is Horse Racing?
Why do women not compete in sports that men are predominant in? Well, here is why! This Blog is a 7- to 10-minute read.
Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, typically involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys over a set distance, for competition. It is one of the most ancient of all sports, as its basic premise – is to identify which of two or more horses is the fastest over a set course or distance. This sport is also very dangerous, with 700 to 800 horse deaths per year- an estimated amount of two breakdowns out of 1000.
Horse races vary widely in format and many countries have developed their own particular traditions around the sport. Variations include restricting races to particular breeds, running over different distances (typically a mile, mile and a quarter, mile and an 8th, mile and a 16th), running on different track surfaces and running in different gaits.
While horses are sometimes raced purely for sport, a major part of horse racing’s interest and economic importance is in the gambling associated with it, an activity that in 2008 generated a worldwide market worth around US$115 billion.
Ownership and training of racehorses
Traditionally racehorses have been owned by very wealthy individuals. It has become increasingly common in the last few decades for horses to be owned by syndicates or partnerships.
Historically, most racehorses have been bred and raced by their owners. Beginning after World War II, the commercial breeding industry became significantly more important in North America, Europe and Australasia, the result of which being that a substantial portion of Thoroughbreds is now sold by their breeders, either at public auction or through private sales.
A horse runs in the unique colours (silks) of its owner. These colours must be registered under the national governing bodies and no two owners may have the same colours. The rights to certain colour arrangements are valuable in the same way that distinctive car registration numbers are of value.
The horse owner typically pays a monthly retainer or, a “day rate” to his or her trainer, together with fees for use of the training centre or gallops (if the horse is not stabled at a race track), veterinarian and farrier (horse shoer) fees and other expenses such as mortality insurance premiums, stakes entry fees and jockeys’ fees. The typical cost of owning a race horse in training for one year is in the order of £15,000 in the United Kingdom and as much as $35,000 at major race tracks in North America.
Types of racing
Thoroughbred racing is divided into two codes: flat racing and jump races such as the steeple chase. The most significant races are categorised as Group races or Graded stakes races. Every governing body is free to set its own standards, so the quality of races may differ. Horses are also run under different conditions, for example, Handicap races, Weight for Age races or Scale-Weight. Although handicapping is generally seen as serving the purpose of gambling rather than identifying the fastest horses, some of the best-known races in the world, such as the Grand National or Melbourne Cup are run as handicaps.
In the world’s major Thoroughbred racing countries, the breeding of racehorses is a huge industry providing over a million jobs worldwide.
Types of races
A handicap race is one in which the runners have been “handicapped” by carrying more weight, also called an impost, according to their performance in other races. Theoretically, all horses have a chance of being competitive in a race that is correctly handicapped.
Higher-class races for bigger prizes are known by different terms in various countries—graded stakes races in the United States and Canada, conditions races in England and France, and group races in Australia and New Zealand. They often involve competitors that belong to the same gender, age and class. These races may, though, be “weight-for-age“, with weights adjusted only according to age, and also there are “set weights” where all horses carry the same weight. Furthermore, there are “conditions” races, in which horses carry weights that are set by conditions, such as having won a certain number of races, or races of a certain value.
A maiden race is one in which the runners have never won a race. Maiden races can be among horses of many different age groups. It is similar to a stakes race in the respect that horses all carry similar weights and there are no handicapped “penalties.” This is the primary method for racing a 2-year-old for the first time, although only against other 2-year-olds. Three-year-olds also only race against their own age in maiden races early in the year.
An allowance race is one in which the runners run for a higher purse than in a maiden race. These races usually involve conditions such as “non-winner of three lifetimes.” They usually are for a horse which has broken its maiden but is not ready for stakes company.
A claiming race is one in which the horses are all for sale for more or less the same price up until shortly before the race. The intent of this is to even the race; if a better-than-class horse is entered, it might be lost for the claiming price, which is likely less than the horse is worth. Someone may wish to claim a horse if they think the horse has not been trained to its fullest potential under another trainer. If a horse is purchased, a track official tags it after the race, and it goes to its new owner.
A selling race, or seller, is one in which the winner is put up for auction immediately after the race.
A Sweepstakes is an old-fashioned term (now usually abbreviated to “Stakes”) for a race in which the winning owner wins, or “sweeps” the entry fees paid by the owners of all the other horses entered.
There are many different types of horse racing, including:
Saddle Trotting, where horses must trot from a starting point to a finishing point under saddle
Endurance racing, where horses travel across the country over extreme distances, generally ranging from 25 to 100 miles (40 to 161 km). Anything less than 25 miles qualifies as a limited distance ride or LD.