The History of Horse Racing

horse race

Horse races are one of the oldest sports, with an ancient history that spans all cultures. Archaeological records show that horses were used for racing in Ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria, Egypt and other civilizations. The sport developed from a primitive contest of speed or stamina between two animals to a modern, multi-billion dollar global spectacle involving thousands of participants and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment. The basic concept of a race remains unchanged, however: the horse that finishes first wins.

In the United States, organized horse races began with colonial Britain in New Amsterdam (now Manhattan). These events were open to all and centered on the British system of handicapping, which emphasized speed rather than stamina. The American breeders adapted to this style and soon developed a reputation for producing big-bodied, long-legged horses that could compete in European races.

As the popularity of horse racing grew in Europe and America, betting became commonplace, leading to the creation of parimutuel wagering, in which winning bettors get all the money wagered on the winner, minus a percentage from the track. The horse owners favored the parimutuel system, which allowed them to collect a much larger share of the wagers than they would have if they kept all the money for themselves.

Before the start of a race, a betor will look at a horse’s coat in the walking ring. If it’s bright and rippling with just the right amount of sweat, the horse is believed to be in good form. Bettors also pay attention to the way the horses walk, to see if they are tense or anxious. A tense horse will not move as well in the race, and may even “bounce” or kick its feet out of control.

At the starting gate, Mongolian Groom balked. A horse that balks is not a good bet, and bettors will usually bet on other horses.

Once the race started, War of Will took the lead, with McKinzie and Mongolian Groom chasing him from behind. As the pack approached the clubhouse turn, War of Will began to tire from his exertion and lost ground to the leaders.

On the backstretch, Vino Rosso, a chestnut colt, swept into second place, with McKinzie in close pursuit. The crowd turned from cheering to shrieking.

The finish of the race was a photo-finish, in which a photograph is taken of the horses as they cross the finishing line. If the photo shows a tie, a tiebreaker is held to determine the winner. A photograph is also required to determine a dead heat, in which the horses come across the finish line in equal first and second places.

Researchers have found that media coverage of political elections is framed in much the same way as a horse race, with frontrunners getting more positive press than underdogs who are gaining momentum. This horse race framing is most prevalent in corporate-owned and large-chain newspapers. A study by Johanna Dunaway, associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University, and Regina Lawrence, associate dean at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, examined newspaper coverage of governor and U.S. Senate races in 2004, 2006 and 2008, and discovered that a significant number of articles portrayed the election as a horse race.