A horse race is an athletic competition involving a field of horses that are run over a set distance, usually a mile. A winner is declared at the end of the race and is awarded a prize, which is usually called a cup.
The sport of horse racing has long been a huge moneymaker for the owners of racehorses, and has attracted many fans to grandstands. But it has become increasingly difficult for the industry to sustain its business model, especially as technology improves.
Increasingly, people are betting on racehorses through online gambling sites rather than at the track, and those bettors have more options to choose from than ever before. They can place their wagers as a single ticket or in a series of bets on races that span multiple days, often called a parlay.
One of the most popular bet types is a “pick three,” or “pick four,” in which you can choose a horse to win a particular race or to finish first or second in a given race. A pick five or six, in which you can choose to bet on all of the races in a series, is also popular.
When horse racing became popular in the United States, it was based on the British model. In Britain, the best horses were not ranked by their speed but instead by their stamina. That was a good strategy because the Americans, who had been fighting Indians and French soldiers in the Revolutionary War, did not have the resources to produce elite sprinters.
The American horse race, on the other hand, was based on stamina, and it has continued to be so, at least in America. Some of the best horses have been long shots, and a true underdog has often won a big race. Canonero II, for example, a Kentucky Derby winner in 1971, was a long shot and took on some of the best horses in the world.
In the years following the Civil War, however, the pace of racing changed significantly. Among other things, powerful painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs designed for humans began to be used in race preparation. In addition, blood doping and growth hormones were used.
That created a system that was difficult for racing authorities to police. Trainers punished for drug use in one jurisdiction could simply move to another. In the United States, it was hard to keep up with the changing landscape of drug abuse, and racing officials did not have the expertise or testing capacity to detect most of these substances.
Despite this, the industry kept growing and expanding. As the economy got better, more people came to enjoy the thrill of racing.
There are a few types of people in the industry: crooks who use drugs, or who countenance drug use by their agents; dupes who labor under the illusion that the sport is broadly fair and honest; and honorable souls who care about their horses and want to see them treated well.