Horse Racing at a Crossroads

From the fashion and mint juleps to the actual horse racing, the Kentucky Derby looks pretty much like it always has. But the sport is at a crossroads. Congress stepped in last year and is now working on new rules for basic safety and drug testing.

There are the crooks who dangerously drug their horses, and there are the dupes who labor under the illusion that the industry is generally fair and honest. In the middle are honorable souls who realize the truth is otherwise.


Horse racing has a long and storied history. It is one of the oldest sports in the world, and it dates back to when humans first domesticated horses. The sport has evolved from simple chariot races to today’s sophisticated and thrilling Thoroughbred races. While many critics claim that horse racing is cruel to the animals, others believe that it represents the pinnacle of human achievement for these magnificent creatures.

Most horse races are restricted to specific breeds of horses. For example, a horse must have a pedigree of a certain type to be eligible to compete in a flat race. Typically, a horse will start in flat races as a juvenile and then move on to hurdling or steeplechase when it is mature enough.

The earliest recorded horse race took place in the 1600s. This event was held on the plains of Hempstead on Long Island. The modern form of horse racing grew from this early event and is now an industry that contributes $15 billion to the U.S. economy.


Horse racing is a fascinating sport that attracts millions of viewers around the world. It requires a stubborn horse with a lot of strength, stamina and speed. A good jockey is also needed to help them run along the course and jump any hurdles or fences in the way. The winner of a race is the first horse to touch the finish line with its head. If two horses manage to do so simultaneously, a photo finish system is used to determine the winner.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is a new regulatory body for the sport that has a federal mandate to set safety standards across the country. But HISA’s first steps have been met with resistance from horse owners and trainers. One reason is that they worry about losing revenue from a new set of rules. But there is also concern about animal welfare and alleged drug use by some riders. HISA will have two standing committees – a racetrack safety committee and an anti-doping and medication control committee.


The sport’s regulations have evolved over the years, particularly with the introduction of a computerized pari-mutuel betting system and televised races. These changes helped to bolster interest in the sport and increase betting turnover and attendance. The new rules also provide for more accurate horse identification and equipment changes, and ensure that stewards are aware of any potential race issues.

Another key change involves drug regulations. The new federal Horseracing Integrity Act prohibits the use of certain medications that mask pain, such as furosemide (Lasix). Using this drug during high-speed races can cause pulmonary hemorrhage in the horses, which can be fatal.

The legislation is intended to bring uniform medication regulations to horse racing, which has long been a patchwork of state and national rules. It also provides for clear due process and disciplinary procedures for safety, performance, and anti-doping and medication control rule violations. This is a welcome improvement, but more changes are needed.


Horse race betting is one of the most popular pastimes in the world. The thrill of watching horses run around a track and knowing that your $2 bet can make you a little richer is unsurpassed by any other sport.

The odds on a specific horse are set before the race starts and are based on the opinions of official handicappers. They are fluid throughout the day, and change as money is wagered on different horses. Favorites tend to have lower odds, while longshots have higher ones.

A win/place bet is a straight wager on a particular horse, and the payouts depend on where it finishes. A place/show bet is the same, except it includes a third wager on a horse finishing in either second or third. These bets are more expensive than straight wagers. They can be difficult for newcomers to cash, unless they have astounding beginner’s luck. The racetrack keeps a percentage of the total bet (called a takeout) and calculates the payouts based on the odds on each horse.