A horse race is a sporting competition in which horses compete for a prize, usually monetary. Betting is common on horse races and may be done in various ways, including placing individual bets on the winner or accumulator bets where multiple outcomes are wagered on at once. In addition to betting, spectators at a horse race can purchase food and beverages, and many races are held with live music or other entertainment.
The earliest evidence of horse racing can be traced to the Olympic Games in Greece during the period 700-40 bce, where there were both four-hitch chariot races and mounted (bareback) races. The sport then spread to China, Persia, and Arabia, and from there to Europe where it became a major public entertainment in the Roman Empire and beyond.
In modern times, horse racing has been regulated by states and the federal government, rather than by one central body. This has led to a patchwork of rules and regulations across the dozens of states that host horse races. For example, each state has different standards for the use of whips during a race and the types of medications a horse can be given. The penalties for trainers and owners who violate these rules also vary by jurisdiction.
The sport has also come under increasing pressure from animal rights groups, who are concerned about abuse of young horses, drug use, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. As a result, the industry is in decline. Attendance at racetracks has dwindled, and grandstands that once held thousands now seat fewer than a thousand people. The number of races is down, as are the total number of wagers.
A major type of horse race is a handicap race, in which the weights that horses must carry are adjusted for various factors such as age, distance, and sex. For example, a two-year-old will carry less weight than a three-year-old, and a filly carries a lower weight than a male. This is designed to even the playing field between supposedly equal competitors.
During a race, horses and jockeys compete for a prize that is determined by the order in which they cross the finish line. If a tie between two horses is determined, the winner is decided by a photo finish. This is where a photo is taken of the exact moment that each horse crosses the finish line, and a steward or other official looks closely at the image to decide which horse broke the plane of vision first. If a photo finish isn’t possible, the race is declared a dead heat. In some cases, dead heats can be rerun to determine the winner.