What is a Horse Race?

horse race

a contest of speed between horses ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies and their drivers

A horse race is the sport of racing thoroughbred racehorses. It has been practiced in civilizations across the world since ancient times. It is a thrilling spectacle that often requires the skill and judgment of a rider to coax the maximum potential from his or her mount. It is a coveted honor that has made its way into myth and legend as the gods of ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Egypt and Norse religions waged their own divine horse races.

In modern American culture, the term horse race may refer to any formidable contest or competition, particularly one in which people are vying for something. For example, political campaigns have been likened to a horse race in the way that voters are comparing candidates and seeking a winner, with both sides trying to win as many votes as possible. The phrase has also been applied to other kinds of contests, such as a sporting event in which participants are competing to win.

The horse racing industry has a moral problem, as illustrated by the recent scandal involving trainer Steve Asmussen and his assistant Scott Blasi. The nine-minute video that PETA has released and the story by Joe Drape of The Times reveal a pattern of dangerously drugged horses to make them look healthy enough for veterinarians to pass their visual inspections and go racing at top speeds.

The horse race business has a long history of being crooked and of counting on the naivety of millions of dupes who work to keep it that way. There are some, however, who are skeptics about the crookedness and who do all they can to help fix things. There are countless others, however, who have no clue about the reality of the business and just don’t care.

Whether or not horse racing can survive as an ethical enterprise is the biggest question facing it at this moment. It is not going to do so by pretending that the problem does not exist or by claiming that it is under control. It is not going to do so without taking a very bold leap that involves more money for enhanced drug tests, legislative efforts to better regulate trainers and swifter and more severe punishment for offenders.

It is not going to do so unless there is a serious commitment by the vast majority of its workers and patrons to change the way they treat these magnificent creatures. It is not going to do so unless the industry commits to creating a wraparound aftercare system for every horse that it creates and sells. And it is not going to do so if it does not commit to a full ethical reckoning in a society and culture that increasingly recognizes animals as entitled to fundamental rights.

The horse race business has stolen the futures of Eight Belles, Medina Spirit, Keepthename, Creative Plan and thousands of other ex-racehorses by its long history of ignoring the needs of these beautiful animals. If it wants to be a legitimate, competitive sport, it must do something about that, starting with a total restructuring of the entire industry.