What to Watch for in a Horse Race
What to Watch for in a Horse Race
Horse racing is one of the most compelling spectator sports in the world. There's not a whole lot of news that you need to follow or technical information that you need to master in order to enjoy the thrills and excitement of any of the thundering hoofs of the ponies racing around the track.
Many people also bet on the race but wagering isn't crucial to one's enjoyment of the sporting event itself. However, if you're heading to the track, you should be prepared so that you know what you're seeing. Take a few minutes to read about horse racing so that when you arrive at the track, you'll have a deeper understanding of what's happening.
Types of Racing Horses
All horses aren't alike. Just as there are different breeds of dogs and cats, there are different breeds of horses.
The most popular breeds for racing are Thoroughbreds. These horses trace their lineage back to three sires who started the line in England in the 1800s. The original thoroughbreds were Turkish and Arabians.
Thoroughbreds are light horses and are sometimes called a "running horse." They are known as the fastest of all horses with top speeds of almost 40 miles per hour (64 km). Over the years the Thoroughbred has developed a reputation as the king of horse racing (except for the quarter-mile sprint). Its temperament is nervous and racy.
Thoroughbreds average 64 inches (160 cm) in height and weigh around 1,100 lb (500 kg). They usually have white markings and are black or brown and have a leggy appearance. They are known as "hot-blooded" horses and are prized for their agility, speed, and spirit.
The Arabian horse originated in the Middle East and was bred to withstand traveling long distances at a moderate pace due to an abundance of type I muscle fibers that allow their muscles to work for extended periods of time. The wandering Bedouins developed this horse with the goal of outrunning their enemies. Arabians appeared in the United States in colonial times and by the Civil War era, they began to be bred as purebreds. The Jockey Club started to record Arabians in a separate subsection after the Arabian Horse Registry of America was formed in 1908.
Today Arabians are used primarily in endurance racing but are sometimes raced over traditional race tracks.
Quarter Horses are a blend of Colonial Spanish horses that were crossed with English horses in Colonial America (1700s). The goal of the breeding was to create a compact, muscular horse that could be used for plowing and cattle work.
Quarter Horses propel themselves forward at extremely fast sprinter speed in their races. These animals have larger hind limb muscles than Arabians – that makes it less suitable for endurance racing but more suitable in races in which there's a need to accelerate rapidly.
Quarter Horse racing generally involves a straight track of four hundred meters, or one quarter of a mile. This became the standard racing distance for Quarter Horses (and inspired their name). Quarter Horse races are run flat out (with the exception of the longer, 870-yard distance contests) in which the horses run at top speed.
Types of Horse Racing
There are multiple types of horse races. If you're planning on attending a race, be prepared so that you know what you're seeing!
The most popular horse races are flat races. Flat races involve a simple race that starts at the beginning of the track and takes the horses around the track to the finish line. There are no obstacles in a flat race but there are subtle variations that change the nature of one flat race from the next. Some flat races are run for distance while others focus on track type (dirt, turf or synthetic), handedness, handicaps, track and more. These conditions favor some horses that have particular traits over others. Some horses only run specific types of flat races while others run multiple types.
The goal of all of the races is essentially the same – to get around the track first. For instance, the Epsom Derby and the Kentucky Derby are races for 3-year-olds of a particular weight. The Epsom Derby is raced over 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 10 yards on turf while the Kentucky Derby is raced over 1 and 1/4 miles on dirt. The Epsom Derby is slower than the Kentucky Derby which generally takes 2 minutes. The Epsom Derby's small addition of distance means that the runners have a slower pace for most of the race than horses running in the Kentucky Derby.
Harness racing uses Standardbred horses instead of Thoroughbred horses who are harnessed to a cart and pull the rider in a two-wheeled "sulky." There are pacing harness races and trotting harness races.
In a trotting harness race the horse moves its legs in diagonal pairs. In a pacing harness race the horse moves both legs on the same side forward at once. Harness races attract the largest number of bettors who appreciate the strategy involved as the horses and their riders strategize to gain position for a better winning stance.
If you're going to wager on the horses you should research how to bet before you start throwing down money. Betting on the horses is one of the most popular forms of gambling around the world but you need to know how to proceed before you step up to place a bet.
In general, you have two categories of wagers from which to choose -- straight wagers and exotic wagers. Straight wagers involve picking one horse to come in first, second, or third. Exotic wagers involve multiple bets on multiple horses in a single wager.
Straight wagers are easier to win but the payouts for exotic wagers are more lucrative.
If you're not going to invest in an advanced degree of skill and knowledge in horse picking, it's a good idea to stick to the straight wagers.