A horse race is a competition in which horses, guided by jockeys (riders), run around a course. The horses compete against each other and the winner takes home a prize money, which in the case of a top-three finishers is often very substantial. A wide variety of races are held worldwide. Some, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Melbourne Cup in Australia, are run over distances that test both speed and stamina. Others are more oriented to one or the other. Still, others are confined to a certain region, such as the American Triple Crown, which consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
The first horse to cross the finish line is declared the winner of a race. In the case of a tie, the winner is determined through a photo finish. A steward, a person in charge of a race, looks at a photograph of the finish and decides which horse broke the plane of the finishing line or “boxed” it first.
Horse racing was a popular sport for many centuries. It was even part of the culture of some ancient cultures, such as the Greek and Roman chariot races and the Bedouin endurance races in the Arabian desert. However, the current form of horse racing was developed in England in the 1600s. The main center for British horse breeding and racing is at Newmarket, a small town in the northeast of England.
In the early days of racing, a single winner took all the prize money. When horse racing became more popular, a second prize was added and later third and fourth prizes were introduced. The races with the largest purses are sponsored by commercial companies.
To win a race, the horse and jockey must cross the finishing line before the other competing horses. If two horses reach the finishing line at the same time, a dead heat is decided by examining a close-up photograph of the finish.
Although a horse is not required to wear a silks cap, riders usually do so to distinguish themselves from the other jockeys and to show their loyalty to a particular stable or trainer. The hat is usually worn backwards, and it is customary to have an embroidered name on the front and a number on the back (assigned in advance). It is also common to use colored silks, such as yellow for post position one, blue for 2, etc.