A horse race is a contest between two or more horses, in which the winner is determined by whose jockey is able to coax the most advantage from their mount. It’s a sport that owes its origins to ancient, primitive forms of competitive hunting and chariot racing. Over the centuries, it has evolved from a diversion for the leisure class into a huge public entertainment business, but its essential features have changed little. The race has long been a contest of speed and stamina, but now it’s often also a test of the skill of a rider.
Since dash races (one heat per race) became the rule, a few yards in a race has become a crucial difference, and it is up to the jockey’s skill and judgment to gain that advantage. As a result, horse racing has developed into a sophisticated science of evaluating and selecting the best horses. The practice has spread to most western democracies, and as technology improves and the public becomes more aware of the dark side of the industry, it promises to continue to evolve.
The most famous horse races are known as “the Triple Crown,” the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Founded in the 1850s, they were the first of their kind to set a three-race series that rewarded the most talented thoroughbreds. Since then, scores of countries have instituted their own versions of the elite series.
Horses have an innate desire to run fast and win, and they have perfected their ability to do so. Their powerful bodies move with hypnotic smoothness, and their brisk gallops are both exhilarating and awe-inspiring. Their hypnotic rhythms captivate and enthrall the millions of people who crowd the grandstands, cheering for their favorite horses to cross the finish line.
Despite its popularity, the sport of horse racing is not without controversy. Critics contend that it is inhumane and corrupt, and that it relies on the abuse of horses to generate enormous profits for its participants. But supporters argue that the sport reflects the natural instincts of these noble animals and that while it may need reform, it is still a beautiful, noble art.
The horses were thirsty, and the track was dry from a recent rain. They had been injected with Lasix that morning, a diuretic marked on the race forms with a boldface “L.” It’s given to prevent pulmonary bleeding, which hard running causes in many horses. It’s not a good look, and the drug can make a horse’s face pink with blood, but it is necessary.
The race favored War of Will, which hugged the inside barrier. But he was tiring by the far turn, and when McKinzie and Mongolian Groom began to close on him, his jockey lost faith in his own mount. Then the jockey swung his whip, and the three runners were tangled up in an avalanche of hooves. When the dust settled, McKinzie was a half-length ahead of War of Will.