Horse racing is a sport that pits horses against each other in contests that challenge their courage, skill and physical fitness. It has a rich history dating back to ancient times when the steeds of gods and heroes were engaged in spirited combat. Today, horse racing continues to be an important part of the world’s culture and heritage. It is also a major economic driver. It is a global industry with many popular races that are attended by millions of fans.
The earliest records of organized horse racing date to the Olympic Games in Greece between 700 and 40 B.C., when both four-hitched chariot and mounted bareback races were held. Horse racing soon spread to other civilizations, including China, Persia and Arabia, where it became highly refined and incorporated into mythology.
Today, horse racing in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry that encompasses dozens of states and thousands of racetracks. Unlike major sports leagues such as the NBA, horse racing is regulated by a patchwork of rules and regulations that vary from state to state, which can lead to conflicts of interest between owners and trainers. In addition, the punishments for violating the rules differ based on jurisdiction. For example, a trainer who is found guilty of using excessive whipping may be banned in one state but allowed to participate in another shortly thereafter.
When horses run in a race, they are typically injected with a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs designed to mask injuries, enhance performance and create the illusion of health. Many of these horses are prone to bleeding from their lungs, a condition known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), which can be fatal if not treated in time. To mitigate this, horses are given a drug called Lasix, which is marked on the racing form with a boldface “L.” The medication’s primary function is to act as a diuretic, causing the horse to lose water weight by unloading epic amounts of urine – up to twenty or thirty pounds worth.
Horses’ ability to compete in a race is determined by their breeding, the amount of money won at previous races and a number of other factors such as post position, jockey, age, sex and training. For the top-tier races, the racing secretary or track handicapper assigns a certain amount of weight that each horse must carry to ensure fair competition. These races are known as handicap or conditions races and offer the biggest purses. For example, older horses have a much higher chance of winning than younger ones, so the handicapper adjusts their weight in order to give them the same opportunity as the younger horses. This is how the best horses win the most races.