Race Procedures

Most tracks offer nine or ten races per

Most tracks offer nine or ten races per day, usually in the afternoon. "Meetings," or consecutive days of racing at a track, continue for one month or longer in the United States. British meetings are usually only several days in length.

Horse races follow a strictly organized

Horse races follow a strictly organized procedure. Horses are saddled and jockeys mount in the paddock area in full view of the spectators. Often escorted by outriders and riders on lead ponies, the horses are positioned in individual stalls within the starting gate, located at the starting line. When the field, as the entrants are collectively called, is evenly aligned, the starter presses a button to open the stall gates.

Strategy is an important part of racing

Strategy is an important part of racing, particularly in contests of a mile or longer. Those horses that possess early speed are sent to the lead as soon as the race begins, while jockeys on come from behind horses gallop more slowly at first to save energy for a stronger effort in the "homestretch" (the last section of the race). Whether the speed horses will maintain their early lead or yield to fast-closing competitors depends on the animals` quality and condition, and on other variables known as racing luckwhich include such factors as whether the jockeys make the right moves at the right time.

Races are scrutinized by the track stewards

Races are scrutinized by the track stewards and recorded on videotape. In addition, photoelectric timers measure the leading horse`s time at specific places around the track and at the finish line. Results are reported by times and also by margin of victory, expressed in "lengths" (one length is about eight and a half feet, or the length of a horse`s body). The record for the fastest mile on a dirt course1 minute 32 secondswas set by the American horse Dr. Fager in 1968.

Jockeys and Trainers

Most jockeys first learn to handle horses

Most jockeys first learn to handle horses as exercise boys or girls, riding in morning workouts. Jockeys are usually about 5 ft (1.5 m) tall and weigh about 110 lb (about 50 kg). They begin their jockey careers as apprentices, receiving weight allowances until they have won a stipulated number of races. Jockeys wear distinctive colored and patterned shirts and caps, called silks, that identify their horse`s owner. They may ride for a particular owner or accept whatever mounts trainers offer. Jockeys are paid a fee for each horse they ride as well as a percentage of the purses their mounts win.

The most successful American jockeys of

The most successful American jockeys of the 20th and early 21st centuries included Eddie Arcaro, Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Pat Day, and Russell Baze. Pincay retired in 2003 with 9,530 victories, a record for jockeys; Baze surpassed Pincay`s record in 2006. Notable British jockeys include Sir Lester Keith Piggott and Dick Francis; the latter became a popular author of mystery stories with racetrack settings. Although women were not granted jockey licenses until the 1970s, the Americans Robyn Smith and Julie Krone achieved considerable recognition.

Trainers prepare horses for races and maintain

Trainers prepare horses for races and maintain the animals` condition over the course of their racing careers. Trainers also select which races their horses will enter, taking into account such factors as the race`s distance and the quality of the competition. Like jockeys, trainers may be under contract to a particular owner or they may supervise horses belonging to several owners. Also like riders, they receive a percentage of purses earned.


Racing is a very carefully supervised sport.

Racing is a very carefully supervised sport. The parent body of British racing is the Jockey Club of Great Britain. In the United States, the Jockey Club (which, through its office in Lexington, Kentucky, handles the registration of all North American Thoroughbreds), the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and the Racing Commissioners International are important racing bodies. In addition to Jockey Club registration procedures, racetrack officials identify each horse before every race and conduct tests to detect the presence of medication or drugs that might affect the race`s outcome. Videotape records the race`s progress, while a high-speed camera at the finish line determines close outcomes. Stewards representing the Jockey Club and the state racing commissions can disqualify horses and penalize jockeys for such infractions as interference and dangerous riding.


Betting is an important element in the

Betting is an important element in the popularity of horse racing. At different times in history four main types of betting have been popular: simple betting between individuals; sweepstakes betting, in which large entry fees, or "stakes," are pooled and awarded to the winners; bookmaking, in which speculators offer odds against each horse and accept bets against their predictions; and pari-mutuel betting, which is the most widespread system and that used at the major American tracks. The designation "pari-mutuel" is a French phrase translated as betting among ourselves. Under the pari-mutuel system, which was developed in France during the 1860s, the betting odds on a given horse are derived from a comparison between the total amount wagered on the horse and the total wagered on all the horses in the race. The odds are automatically computed by a device called a totalizator, which posts them on a lighted "tote board" clearly visible to spectators. Odds are recomputed at approximately one-minute intervals until post time, when all bets must be placed and the pari-mutuel machines are locked. Winning tickets are cashed after the race`s results have been declared official, by which time computers have determined the payoffs. Pari-mutuel bettors can wager that a horse will win (finish first), place (finish first or second), or show (finish first, second, or third). In the event that two or more horses are entered by the same owner or trainer, they are coupled in the wagering as an "entry." In this situation a bet on one of these horses is a bet on all of them. In some races with many competitors, horses with less chance of winning are sometimes grouped into single betting interests known as fields.

Combination wagering involves more than

Combination wagering involves more than one horse. Such combinations include the "daily double," in which the bettor must predict the winners of two consecutive races (usually the first two of the day), purchasing the ticket in advance of both. A variation of the daily double is the "pick-6" (or "pick-3"), in which bettors must select the winners of 6 (or 3) consecutive races. To win a "quinella," the bettor must predict the first two finishers in a single race without regard to the order in which they finish. To win an "exacta" (also called perfecta), the bettor must specify the exact order in which the first two horses in a race will finish. Such involved wagering almost always yields higher payoffs than straight win-place-show betting.

Off-track betting (OTB) is growing in popularity

Off-track betting (OTB) is growing in popularity throughout the United States. OTB facilities offer an alternative to wagering at racetracks. As with betting done at tracks, states receive a portion of the pari-mutuel "handle," or take. Off-track wagering has long been legal in the United Kingdom through private bookmaker shops.


Simulcasting, in which live races are televised at various racetracks around the country via satellite, is becoming very important in U.S. racing. It allows bettors to wager on stakes-quality horses, since simulcasts generally are reserved for the best races available. At many U.S. racetracks, whole cards of races from other locations are simulcast, both when the racetrack is also running live racing and when there is no live racing scheduled. Some tracks simulcast the races from up to eight different racetracks at the same time. Beginning in the 1970s, off-track betting and simulcasting became increasingly prevalent in the United States. By 1993 wagering via simulcasting accounted for more than 40 percent of all wagering conducted at racetracks in the United States.


The history of racing on mounted horses

The history of racing on mounted horses dates from the first millennium bc. Previously, no breed of horse hardy enough to carry human riders for significant distances had been developed, although horse-drawn chariots were in common use. The first known formal, mounted horse races took place in ancient Greece. In ancient Rome, horse races occasionally were held, although chariot races were much more frequent. After the fall of Rome in the 5th century ad, horse breeding and racing declined in the West.

In the 6th century horseback riding was

In the 6th century horseback riding was introduced throughout the Middle East by Muslim missionaries, who traveled on horseback as they sought converts. When the Arabs conquered Spain in the 8th century, they rode strong, swift horses of a breed previously unknown in Europe; these horses were also used to pull vehicles. The fame of the Arabian steeds spread throughout Europe in subsequent centuries. In 1110, Henry I, king of England, imported an Arabian stallion from Spain. The stallion and other Arabian horses were later mated with strong but slow English mares to breed swift, hardy horses suitable for warfare. Informal races between purebred mounts over straight 4-mi (6.4 km) courses became popular. In 1174, Smithfield Track, the first public racecourse built since Roman times, was constructed in London. Saddle racing subsequently became a featured sport at most English fairs, and it continues to be a favorite pastime of English royalty and nobility. Horse racing is still popularly referred to as the sport of kings. King Charles II, who patronized racing at Newmarket in the mid-1600s, was known as the father of the British turf.

Horse Racing 1 | Horse Racing 2 | Horse Racing 3 |

Recommended for you

Read more about the full history of the world


Plateau, extensive land formation. The top is flat or sloping; the elevation, from a few hundred to several thousand meters. A plateau is larger th...



Scale (weighing) or Balance (weighing), mechanical or electronic device commonly used in households, scientific laboratories, businesses, and indus...


West Springfield

West Springfield, town, Hampden County, southwestern Massachusetts, on the Connecticut River, across from Springfield; settled in the mid-17th cent...