A horse race is a competitive event in which horses are ridden by jockeys to win a purse. In most modern racing, the winner is determined by the first horse to cross a finish line. Horses are often subjected to intense physical stress during races, and as a result many die from heart attacks or broken bones. The 2008 deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit sparked public outrage and calls for reform in the sport. Despite this, the number of horses dying from the exorbitant demands of racing is unknown because of a lack of industry regulation, transparency and willingness to record data.
In order to be eligible to compete in a horse race, the breed of the horse must meet certain criteria. The sire and dam must be purebred members of the breed, and the horse must have a pedigree that indicates it belongs to the appropriate breed. In addition, the race must be a flat horse race (not including steeplechases) and have a purse of at least a certain amount.
There are a few different types of bets that can be placed on horse races, including wagers to win the race, place and show. Depending on the type of race and the number of participants, the pay-outs vary. For example, placing a bet to win the Kentucky Derby requires betting at least $1,500.
The history of horse racing dates back to ancient civilizations, with chariot and horse races occurring in Babylon, Egypt, Syria, and Greece. Throughout the centuries, horse races have been an important part of the Olympic Games and of mythology and folklore. Archaeological records show that the sport was also a popular pastime among nomadic tribes in Asia and Europe.
Betting on horse races is a global pastime and a major component of the sport’s popularity. Traditionally, bets were placed by individuals on one horse and won or lost, but as technology improved, bets became more automated. Today, most horse races feature an electronic betting system where bets are placed electronically and are settled automatically after the race is complete.
A large percentage of the profits from a horse race are collected by bookmakers, who make their money through vigorish. The remaining profits are split between the owners and trainers of the horses. In some cases, the owners of the winning horse receive more than half of the total prize money.
While the majority of the horse racing population is male, women are becoming more involved with the sport. In 2011, women accounted for more than 50 percent of the wagers placed on horse races in the United States, and women now account for 30 percent of the professional jockeys.
The sport is plagued by an enormously high turnover rate for horses, with most Thoroughbreds being bought and sold multiple times during their careers. This is partly due to the fact that claiming races allow owners to purchase horses from other owners at the time of the race, leaving previous owners with little control over where the horse ends up in its future career.