A horse race is a competition between horses that are ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies. The sport is extremely popular with spectators and has a long history that can be traced back to ancient times. Although the exact origin of the horse race is unknown, there are a number of theories about its creation.
One of the most common is that it was first introduced at the Greek Olympic Games in 700 to 40 B.C. However, there is also evidence that it was a feature of the earliest chariot races in Mesopotamia and ancient China. Regardless of its origin, the horse race quickly spread to many other countries.
In the modern era, horse racing has become one of the most popular forms of gambling. This is due to the fact that the sport can be extremely profitable for those who are skilled enough to place winning bets. While some people enjoy wagering on individual horses, others are more interested in betting on accumulators. The total monetary prize for each race is known as the purse. This prize is distributed to the owners of the horses that finish in first through fourth place, less a percentage for the track’s management.
During the days leading up to the horse race, Siena’s central square, Piazza del Campo, is transformed beyond recognition. A gritty mixture of clay and earth is packed onto the golden cobbles to create a compact and level track for the horses. Bleachers are erected for the thousands of fans and barriers are set up to mark the perimeter of the track. Normally, lively restaurants and cafes spill out into the square, but for the duration of the event they are closed down as the piazza becomes a virtual racetrack.
The horse race begins when a number of impatient horses line up behind a starting rope in front of the crowd. When a horse is ahead of the rest, the rope is released and a minute and a half of ruthless battle begins. The winner is declared when a horse crosses the finishing line first. Runner-ups are awarded second and third place, depending on the size of the field.
Behind the romanticized facade of the horse race is a world of drug abuse, injuries, and slaughter. It is a race in which horses are forced to sprint at speeds that can cause them to suffer from gruesome breakdowns and hemorrhage. The racing industry is notorious for its resistance to change, but in 2020 Congress finally decided it was unwilling to see animals die to entertain its enthusiasts and passed legislation requiring the application of certain safety standards.
The Times article is a good reminder that no matter how hard racing’s legions of apologists may try to dodge or deflect the evidence, they cannot hide the fact that the sport is in crisis. Those who care about the welfare of horses should consider supporting the efforts of organizations like PETA to reform the horse race.