A horse race is a sport in which horses compete around a track. The horses may be ridden or driven and the surface of the track can be grass, dirt, or sand. Spectators often place bets on the outcome of the race, which makes horse racing a lucrative industry for bookmakers.

The most famous horse races are the Triple Crown races: the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and the Kentucky Derby. But there are many more races that are considered elite around the world, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Dubai World Cup, and the Caulfield Cup and Sydney Cup in Australia. Many of these races feature magnificent pageants and attract visitors from around the globe.

While the sport has its fans, it also has critics. The most vocal of these are animal rights activists who point to the cruelty in the racing industry. The horses are subjected to grueling training schedules, and many suffer injuries that are not properly treated or are allowed to get worse, such as from being kicked in the head or groin. They are overbred, and countless die in transport to foreign slaughterhouses. The animal rights activists have launched campaigns to ban gambling on the sport and to expose abusive training practices, drug use, and other abuses.

Some races are open to all entrants, but others are restricted by age, distance, or sex. These races are called handicap races, and the racing secretary assigns weights designed to equalize the chances of each entrant. The weights are determined by studying the horses’ previous performances and comparing them to those of their rivals. A horse must have a valid pedigree to compete in a handicap race.

In a handicap race, the jockey must be careful not to whip the horse too hard, as this could cause them to become exhausted prematurely and lose their chance of winning. A horse that has been whipped too hard is called a “gunner.”

To improve their chances of winning, the jockeys must also carefully consider the condition of the track and the weather forecast. The track should be dry and firm, and the weather should not be windy or rainy. In addition, the jockeys must carefully study the rivalry between the horses and make their decisions accordingly.

Another important factor in determining the winner of a race is the tote board, which displays all of the bets placed by the public and identifies the total amount of money that each of the entrants are expected to win. This information is useful to gamblers because it allows them to make informed decisions about which horse to bet on and the amount of money that they should bet. If a player does not win the race, they can still receive a consolation payout. This is often much smaller than the full payout of a winning ticket. A daily double is a type of wager that pays out if the player correctly picks the winners of two sequential races.