The Truth About a Horse Race

In a horse race, horses are bred and trained to run as fast as possible. They are ridden by jockeys or pulled by sulkies, and they compete against other horses for money and prestige. While some people criticize horse racing as inhumane or corrupt, others argue that it is a sport of skill and tradition dating back to ancient times.

Despite the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing, there is a reality behind it that includes dangerous drugs, injuries, and gruesome breakdowns. These are the facts of the sport that few horse lovers want to face. The truth is that the best way to save these magnificent animals would be to halt the business model of the sport entirely, but this has never been the industry’s top priority. Instead, many horse enthusiasts blow off the concerns of animal activists and the larger public to pursue their own profits.

A few years ago, a horse named Mongolian Groom balked at the starting gate before a race in Santa Anita Park. Horses who balk are frightened, angry, or both. Bettors glean information about a horse’s temperament from the look of its coat in the walking ring before the race. If the coat is bright, rippling with sweat, and full of muscled excitement, the horse is believed to be ready to race.

The sulkie driver aboard the horse, Abel Cedillo, remained patient as he asked the horse to try again. When the gate opened, the horse raced into a pack of 11 runners and quickly established a lead. War of Will, the Preakness champion that year, was ahead of him, with McKinzie, another of his stable stars, a few lengths farther back.

It was a grueling, messy race. As the horses ran around a long dirt oval, mud got up in their nostrils and mouths. They were kicked and shoved by their rivals. Several of the horses stumbled and fell. Two of them died. It was a brutal start to the race, and it would only get worse as the contest went on.

In 2020, Congress decided it was unwilling to see horses die in the name of entertainment and passed legislation requiring horse racing to implement and enforce rigorous safety standards. These new rules are bringing the number of equine fatalities to historic lows, but they can’t stop every injury. Injuries continue to occur at a rate that is higher than in any other sport and are often caused by the horse being pushed to run too fast for its natural abilities.

As an alternative to the horse race model, some journalists have suggested that they could incorporate more of the types of research voters need to make informed choices into their election coverage. They can do this by reporting on the fundraising activities of candidates, tracking how often they visit swing states, and conducting polling that compares the qualifications and policy proposals of the candidates. They can also encourage readers to participate in straw polls, online and in person, and report the results.