What Is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a contest of speed between horses that either are ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies and their drivers. It is an important form of entertainment, a popular sport, and has been a part of many cultures throughout history. The term is also used colloquially to refer to any close form of competition, including political contests.

When journalists cover elections by focusing mainly on who’s ahead and who’s behind – what’s known as horse-race coverage – voters, candidates and the news industry itself suffer, according to a growing body of research.

In the past, a horse race was generally run in two heats. The winning horse was the first one to cross the finish line, often with just a few lengths separating the top contenders. As dash racing became more common, however, the number of races was increased to accommodate more competitors and create more opportunities for horses and riders to win. In addition, rules were developed to allow owners to be their horses’ rider (handicap races) and to allocate weights to entrants based on their previous performance.

The crowded field of runners at Santa Anita that day was so big that the trainers were urged to run their horses, even those they considered unfit. To do otherwise would force them to forfeit their stalls and risk losing the right to enter future races. Veterinarians were likewise pressured to scratch any horses they deemed too sick to run. The Breeders’ Cup officials and track management were desperate for the event to go off without a hitch.

From the starting gate, Mongolian Groom broke well, slipping to the outside of a three-deep pack. On the first turn and backstretch, Cedillo kept Ruth within a couple of lengths of the leader. But as they swung wide on the far turn, running four deep, a gelding called Tropical Terror began to draw away. It seemed like Ruth and Cedillo might not catch him, but then the horse began to lug in during the stretch run. A lug is when a horse drifts towards the inside of the track, and can be a sign that he or she is tiring.

The look on the horse’s face told a different story, though. It was blatantly obvious that the steed was uncomfortable and anxious about the situation, and probably felt a bit of shame as well for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A few strides into the final straightaway, though, and he started to surge forward again. Despite the heavy weather, it was now or never for him to make up lost ground. The horse had the “Look of Eagles,” and his jockey was urging him to the limit. To win, he’d have to take the lead from that gelding with just a few strides left. That’s why they were here, after all. The odds of doing so were pretty much in his favor. The race was the most prestigious on the card, a stakes race for horses rated 109 or higher.