A horse race is a competition between two or more horses for a prize, usually money. The horses are matched according to their speed and the prize is awarded to the fastest. Originally horse races were held only on private land, but in the early 1800s the demand for public racing created open events that were opened to a wider range of runners. In some events, the field was restricted by age or sex; in others, the competition was limited to those whose owners could afford to pay for the entry fee. In the United States, horse races are divided into different classes and winnings are increased as a horse moves up the class ladder. Horses are also classified based on their gait, or way of walking and running. Those with faster gaits are called “sprinters.” Slower horses are grouped into what is called the “chase” class and the prize money increases as a horse moves down the classification ladder.
A horse’s speed and ability to handle long distances are determined by the training and breeding it receives as a foal and during its early years. A horse’s speed and endurance can also be enhanced by the amount of exercise it receives. As a result of the increase in popularity of horse racing, many more horses are being trained and bred than ever before. This is causing the quality of the sport to suffer, because not all horses can make the grade as top racehorses.
As a result of the popularity of horse racing, many critics have attacked it as inhumane or corrupt, claiming that it is overbreeding and doping, and that if serious reform is not made, it will be impossible for the sport to survive. Other observers argue that while it is true that the sport needs to be reformed, horse racing is still an exciting and fascinating sport to watch.
During the late 18th and early 19th century, horse races were primarily held at agricultural fairs and county shows in Pennsylvania. The first organized horse races were known as’speed trials,’ and took place on the dirt track at the fairgrounds. The fastest horses would compete in a number of short races to determine the best horse for pulling carriages. Today horse races are held on the three Philadelphia-area racetracks (Mohegan Pennsylvania, Harrah’s Philadelphia Racetrack & Casino and The Meadows) as well as at other venues throughout the state and country.