What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a competition in which horses compete against each other for a prize. This can be in the form of a cash prize or trophies awarded for the winner, or a percentage of the money wagered on the winner (in the case of parimutuel betting). The most famous horse races are the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

The Derby is the longest of all horse races and tests a thoroughbred’s stamina. The race is held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby was first run in 1875. The Derby is the most popular and well-known race in horseracing, drawing an average crowd of over 80,000 spectators each year.

Spectators watch from luxury boxes in Millionaires Row and the crowded infield, where thousands of people drink and eat. The Kentucky Derby’s purse is the highest of all horse races and attracts many bettors.

In recent years, several horse deaths have occurred at the track, most notably 30 horses at Santa Anita in 2019. This led to a series of safety reforms that were adopted nationally. Protocol now requires a necropsy after each death, as well as an analysis of contributing factors and interviews with stakeholders.

But the biggest problem with horseracing is that the sport’s business model is built on the exploitation of innocent horses. Behind the romanticized facade is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. While horse racing aficionados often turn a blind eye to the cruelty, the truth is that it’s a systemic issue baked into the sport.

There are few things more heartbreaking than watching a beloved racehorse collapse during or after a race. When this happens, the horse is typically euthanized to prevent further injury or pain. A catastrophic breakdown can be caused by a variety of issues, including a torn suspensory ligament (suspension desmitis), a fractured fetlock or hindquarters, or a lameness.

Most horses are pushed beyond their limits and given cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injuries, increase performance, and enhance endurance. As a result, many horses will bleed from the lungs during or after a race—a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). Many of these bleeding, injured, and exhausted animals are shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada, where they face brutal end-of-life processing. But there are a handful of independent, nonprofit horse rescues that network, fundraise and work tirelessly to save these horses.

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