A horse race is a sporting event in which horses compete for the best time around a course of tracks or jumps. It can be run on turf, sand or synthetic surfaces. Spectators at a horse race frequently place wagers on the outcome of the race, making it an important industry for bookmakers. The horses may be ridden or driven, and a variety of tack is used. Historically, horses were used in war and transportation, but the demand for racing grew and horse breeders created specialized races. These races were often open to the public and had rules based on age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance.
A race is won when a horse crosses the finish line first. A winning time is calculated from a number of factors, including the distance of the race and the ability of the horse to overcome resistance. The most important factor is the amount of weight a horse must carry; this can have a significant effect on the winning time. Other factors include a horse’s position in the starting gates, its jockey and trainer, the ‘going’ or surface of the track, and race tactics. In addition, the overall condition of the horse can play a role in its performance.
Some horse race records have stood for a long period of time. The longest standing record is that of the Irish Derby, which has remained unchanged since 1932. Other records are much shorter in duration. The record for the shortest race is held by the 1,000 metre steeplechase, which has been held at Aintree in Liverpool, England, for over 100 years.
Historically, the horse racing industry has been heavily dependent on money from wagering. The amount of money wagered on a horse race can affect the winning time, as well as the odds of that horse winning. This has led to a number of strategies for influencing the winning time, including betting limits, race conditions and handicaps.
The history of horse racing began in ancient Greece, where chariot races were held as part of the Olympic games from 700 to 40 B.C. The sport was later introduced to China, Persia and Arabia. It became popular in Europe and the United States in the late 1700s, when it evolved into the sport we know today.
Early American horse racing was characterized by speed over stamina, until the Civil War when a focus on breeding for quality and a desire for greater monetary rewards shifted attention to the importance of longevity and endurance. Today, most thoroughbreds are retired by age five, as escalating breeding fees and sales prices make it unprofitable to continue their training beyond that point. As a result, less than half of all American horse races are held for older horses. The rest are open to horses up to age four. Some prestigious races, such as the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, are restricted to three-year-olds. However, the emergence of new bloodlines has increased the number of older horses competing at elite levels.