Horse racing is a sport of skill, judgment and luck, and is also one of the world’s most dangerous sports for both horses and jockeys. Injuries to horses are frequent and life-threatening, and spiraling drug misuse that was only a minor element of horse racing in the early and mid-20th century has taken its toll. It is estimated that there are more than 30 deaths a year at American racetracks, while more than 1,000 horses have been injured and lost for good in training.
The sport of horse racing dates back to prehistoric times, but it was not until 1000 B.C.E that the first recorded horse races took place when Greeks attached horses to two-wheeled carts or chariots and raced them around a track. The sport evolved over the centuries, and by 1700 horse races had become formal competitions where people placed bets on the winning horse.
At that time, stamina was considered a benchmark of a great racehorse and not speed, but the development of Thoroughbred breeds made speed a critical component for success. The demand for public horse races grew, and eligibility rules were developed that included the age, sex, birthplace and previous performance of horses. Handicap races were established where the racing secretary assigns weights designed to equalize the winning chances of horses.
Horses begin racing and training when their skeletal systems are still developing and are unprepared for the stress of running on hard tracks at high speeds. Injuries are common, and equine veterinarians are unable to repair all of the damage caused by repeated trauma and excessive exercise. Many horses are forced to compete on medication, despite medical advice to the contrary, and their immature bodies endure a lifetime of stresses that can lead to chronic physical problems. A recent study found that the average horse has a lifespan of only four years and will only achieve peak ability at age three. This fact, combined with escalating purses, breeding fees and sale prices has led to many racehorses being bred and sold before they reach age four. This has contributed to a decline in the number of races held with horses that are at their classic age. The recent tragedy in Santa Anita Park has spurred the governing body of horse racing to reevaluate its rules and safety requirements. It is hoped that this effort will help the sport save lives and reduce the number of injuries suffered by horses. In the meantime, bet responsibly and consider betting at our recommended online horse race sites. They will have the best odds and payouts on your bets!