How to Understand a Horse Race
The most famous races in the world take place on tracks around the globe. They are sponsored by corporate firms and the race horses are bred to be winners, which is why their names are usually written in boldface on the race day form. Those names also appear on a chart that shows the order of finish. The most prestigious races are called stakes races, and the winning horse receives a large purse, which is money paid to the winner. The other runners in the race receive smaller amounts of money.
A bettor may bet on one horse to win, two or more horses to place and/or show. Betting a horse to win is the safest bet because it guarantees the bettor will get some money back. However, the bettor will likely have to place the bet at higher odds than the horse is favored to win. Betting a horse to place and/or show offers a lower return on investment but is more risky.
The best way to understand a horse race is to go to the track and watch. The horses are trained to run very fast in close quarters, and they are whipped by riders on their backs. In nature, a horse would not willingly run at such breakneck speed in such a small area and with so many other animals. The animal would be more interested in self-preservation, and it is only because humans perch on the backs of the creatures that they are compelled to race.
Before the race begins, the bettors look at the horses’ coats in the walking ring to see if they are bright and rippling with sweat, the sign that the horses are ready for action. Those who have bets on the race will also study the starting gate to see how the horses break from the barrier, and they will look at the way the jockeys mount them.
As the races begin, the horses sprint down the backstretch to reach the first turn. Then they slow down for the clubhouse turn, which marks the first of two turns on the race course. The horses then slow down again for the stretch to the finish line. This part of the race is a time of intense concentration, and it requires that the horses be fit enough to maintain a reasonable pace for three or four minutes.
Once the horses enter the final straightaway of the track, they are injected with Lasix, which is indicated on the racing form by a capital “L.” This drug prevents pulmonary bleeding, caused by hard running and common in thoroughbreds, that can leave both jockey and horse covered in blood. Its other function is to make the horses urinate epic quantities of water. It is not uncommon for horses to unload twenty or thirty pounds of urine in a single race. This is why horse races are not suitable for the faint of heart or the easily nauseated.