A horse race is a competition in which horses are ridden and guided by jockeys to win a prize. Horse races are held in a variety of countries around the world. There are many different types of horse races, ranging from the classics such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France and the Royal Ascot Gold Cup in England to sprint races and long-distance endurance tests. A variety of factors determine whether a horse wins a race, including the speed of the horse, its stamina, and its fitness. The length of a race also varies, with shorter races referred to as sprints and longer races known as routes or staying races. In the United States, the majority of horse races are one and a quarter miles (2.4 kilometers) or shorter.
The sport is regulated by national organizations and international racing bodies. There are several rules and regulations that must be adhered to by horses competing in a race, including a limit on the number of horses allowed to start. Each race is also governed by a set of terms and conditions that must be met for the safety of the horses and the fairness of the competition. For example, jockeys must weigh in before a race and must submit urine or saliva samples to ensure that they are not using prohibited substances during the course of the race.
In the event of a dead heat, a photo finish is used to decide the winner. A photograph is studied by a panel of judges who compare it to video footage of the race to see which horse crossed the finish line first. If it is impossible to determine a clear winner, then the race will be declared a dead heat and the prizes distributed according to established rules.
A variety of monetary awards are given to the winners of horse races, called purses. Purses vary depending on the type of race, but are generally higher for graded stakes races and other prestigious events. The largest purses are awarded to the winners of the races that are considered the most prestigious in each country, such as the Triple Crown.
The sport of horse racing has a long history, with the earliest documented accounts dating back to 700 to 40 B.C., when chariot and bareback horse races were held at the Greek Olympic Games. A specialized form of horse racing, the steeplechase, which involves jumping over obstacles, is considered one of the most dangerous for the horses and dates back to the 5th century b.c., when the Greek author Xenophon described it as a popular pastime for cavalry officers. Since then, the popularity of horse races has spread worldwide. The recent spate of equine deaths at Santa Anita in California led to reforms that are being implemented across the country. Many state governments now catalogue equine injuries and fatalities, and there are several public databases that detail equine accidents on the track.