Horse racing is a sport that has evolved from primitive contests of speed and stamina between two horses to a modern spectacle featuring massive fields, sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, and immense sums of money. The basic concept, however, has remained unchanged over the centuries: A horse that finishes first is declared the winner.
Like many sports, horse racing has experienced a series of technological advancements over the years that have helped to enhance safety on and off the track. These advances have also increased the ability of the industry to track and diagnose minor and major health issues before they become serious problems for a racehorse. Thermal imaging cameras can detect a horse overheating post-race, and MRI scanners, X-rays, and endoscopes can spot injuries that might not be visible to the naked eye. 3D printing technology has even allowed for the creation of casts, splints, and prosthetics for injured horses.
Despite these advances, horse racing remains an incredibly dangerous sport for both horses and humans. Injuries on the race course are frequent and can range from shattered legs to severed spines. Even a sprained ankle can lead to death when it is struck by another horse or by the ground. The most common cause of death, though, is cardiovascular collapse or a heart attack caused by the strenuous training that racehorses endure, especially when they are young and still in adolescence.
The most famous races in the world are the Triple Crown series, comprised of the Preakness Stakes, Kentucky Derby, and Belmont Stakes. The Triple Crown is considered to be the pinnacle of American racing, but similar competitions exist around the world. Many of these races feature different names and rules, but they all require a certain level of skill from both the horse and its jockey.
A runner is said to be “in the money” if it finishes in one of the top four positions in a race and earns the horse its share of the purse. The term “bug in” refers to a horse that drifts towards the inside of the racetrack during the stretch run, which is often a sign that a horse is tiring.
Unlike most other professional sports leagues, which have one set of standards and rules for all players and teams, horse racing has a patchwork of laws in the dozens of states that host it. Different jurisdictions have their own regulations regarding things such as the use of whips and the types of medication that a horse can receive. The rules differ so much that a trainer who violates the law in one state can often participate in a race in another state shortly thereafter. This can be extremely dangerous for the horses, who may not be able to cope with such a sudden change in environments.