Horse racing is the competition of horses and riders to win a prize, usually money, in a race. It is a sport that has long been popular in civilisations across the world, including Ancient Greece, Rome, and Babylonia. The earliest recorded races, which involved chariots and mounted riders, were held in ancient Greece over the period 700-40 bce.
Horses are bred to compete in different types of races. They are mainly classified as flat-type horses, but steeplechases and harness racing also exist.
In most horse races, the horses must have a sire and a dam who are purebred individuals of their breed. In many countries, the horses must be bred in their own country to be eligible for competition.
Most races are winner-take-all events in which the top finisher receives a prize. Purses are the largest sums of money offered in horse races and can reach millions of dollars.
A number of factors determine whether a race is considered fair or unfair, including the number and quality of the horses and the rules that govern the race. In some states, for example, the horses and jockeys must pass a drug test to be allowed to compete.
Some races are also run with a photo finish, in which the officials examine a picture of the horses’ finish line to decide who broke the plane first and thus is the winner. In other races, the stewards use dead heat rules to decide who wins.
Throughout its history, horse racing has been associated with prestige and wealth. This has encouraged breeders to develop faster equines that can win more often. The resulting Thoroughbred became the most famous breed in the world.
The Thoroughbred was created in England after British soldiers returning from battles with Middle Eastern horses in North Africa praised the speed and stamina of these animals. The breed soon spread across Europe, where it developed its own distinct identity.
While many of these horses were bred in Britain, others were sent abroad to seek bigger purses. In the past century, many Thoroughbreds bred in Britain have been sent to race in Australia and New Zealand.
Some of the most famous races in the world include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Caulfield and Sydney cups in Australia, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England.
Most of these races are held on oval tracks that offer a wider view than traditional racetracks, and they can be watched live by thousands of people who pay to watch the races. The most expensive and prestigious races, such as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, are sponsored by commercial firms that put up the purses.
As racing continues to grow, its integrity and safety are threatened by the perception that some horses may be using performance-enhancing drugs. This can lead to serious problems for the racing industry, including losing track owners, and causing bettors to find alternative betting opportunities elsewhere.