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The Real World of Horse Racing

Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing lies a world of drugs, injuries, and gruesome breakdowns. And while racing fans cheer, horses hemorrhage into the slaughter pipeline.

When we witness the deaths of horses like Eight Belles and Medina Spirit, it should reverberate with an outrage that is as loud as the sport’s yawning gap in addressing aftercare for its retirees.


Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world. It started as a primitive contest of speed and stamina between two horses and grew into the sport we know today, with large fields of runners, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and massive sums of money at stake.

In the early eighteenth century, Europeans began breeding fast sprinters. Their races tended to be ad-hoc affairs, held on whatever routes were available. In the Roman Empire, chariot races were the preferred form of racing, and they took place in huge arenas called hippodromes.

Organized horse racing in the United States did not begin until 1665, when Governor Richard Nicolls opened a track on Hempstead Plains in New York City and named it “Newmarket.” It was modeled after England’s Newmarket. Before that time, there was no centralized authority to control the sport’s growth, and tracks were often controlled by criminal elements.


A horse race is run in a variety of formats depending on its classification. Group 1 races are the top-tier races and offer the highest prize money and prestige. Group 2 and 3 races are still of high importance but are a step below in terms of quality. They are calculated the same as Group 1 races but also include penalties in the form of extra weight for horses that have won at a higher level.

Claiming races are another class of races aimed at creating a balance between risk and reward. These races provide class relief to horses that might not be fast enough to compete at a higher level, while also protecting owners from losing their horses if they fail to win.


Horse race is a card game that requires at least four players. The dealer sets the odds and takes bets from players. The player who wins the most chips is declared the winner. The dealer also pays players who bet on the winning horse. The game uses poker chips or ten-cent coins as currency.

Before a race begins, horses are positioned in their stalls or behind the starting gate. Then a special flag is used to make a signal and the race begins.

The horse must travel the course and leap any hurdles or fences (if present). If a horse does not pass the finish line first, it is disqualified. Prize money is distributed to the first, second, and third place finishers. In addition, the jockeys may be punished if they fail to follow instructions.


With horse racing becoming such a popular spectator sport, the prize money offered in each race has increased significantly over the years. The size of these prizes is largely dependent on the amount of interest that is generated from bettors. Many of the biggest races are sponsored by bookmakers and alcoholic beverage companies, which help to raise the overall prize pot.

Each owner who enters a horse in a race contributes to the purse pool, and the money is then distributed after the race. The winner receives a substantial share of the total prize, while other horses receive varying amounts, depending on their finishing position. Some states even offer a starter’s bonus for horses that finish worse than the first five, which helps to increase the overall prize fund.


Horses are amazingly strong in order to carry their weight, but they’re also remarkably light so that they can be fast. Unfortunately, the nature of their limbs means that they can only generate a certain number of loads at high speed before they begin to wear and tear.

Tendons, which connect muscle to bone, are often injured in horses. Injuries to the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) and the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) are particularly common in racing horses. Those that recover from a bone bruise have a good prognosis for life and a return to training and competing, but those who suffer from a comminuted fracture of the long bones of the front and back legs are often euthanized.

Bone fractures are often caused by the hard landing after a jump, which is why event horses and jump racers are especially at risk. Many of these horses are then sold at auctions, where they are forced to run at reckless speeds to impress potential buyers.

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