Day: May 25, 2023

Can Horse Racing Survive in the 21st Century?

Horse races are a popular sport around the world, and for good reason. The thrill of the ride, the roar of the crowd and, of course, the money that can be won all attract millions of fans to the tracks each year. But the industry is also a source of controversy, as horse racing faces questions about animal welfare, drug use and safety. As the sport continues to evolve and grow, many of those who care about it wonder if it can survive the 21st century. While it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when horse racing began, it is well established that it has existed for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations held a variety of horse-racing contests, from four-hitched chariot races to Bedouin endurance races in the Arabian desert. The sport eventually spread to Europe, where it took on an official form. Modern thoroughbred racing got its start in Newmarket, England in the 1600s. The success of a few fast horses captured the public’s attention, and racehorses became a major draw for spectators. Oval track designs that gave audiences a better view of the action further increased interest in the sport. The prestige attached to successful racing inspired breeders to produce faster equines. Soldiers returning from desert battle fronts told stories of their opponents’ astounding horses running through the sand, inspiring breeders to import Middle Eastern sires to create a new breed of leaner, faster horses that came to be known as Thoroughbreds. As the number of thoroughbreds competing in races rose, so did betting. A wager on a winner could bring in thousands of pounds, or even more if the bet was placed at a long shot. This led to an era in which bettors cheered not only on the big favorites but also on underdogs, as they looked for a payday. Among the most famous of those underdogs was Seabiscuit, who thrilled bettors and earned a reputation for being a true crowd pleaser. Today’s escalating costs have pushed the price of races higher, and field sizes are lower. This has prompted some breeders to abandon the sport altogether, while others are shifting their focus to breeding racehorses for other countries where prize money is larger. Horse-racing’s governing body, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), has grabbed the reins and is making sweeping changes. Late last year, it replaced a triumvirate, consisting of the board and two other BHA committees that had made decisions by consensus. While some pundits may think that this move is a bad idea, the truth is that it is simply an effort to put the industry on stable footing. The BHA will face many challenges as it moves forward, but the organization seems to be up for the task, as evidenced by a number of upcoming races that will feature older runners. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, the Caulfield and Sydney cups in Australia, the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina, and the Durban July in South Africa all feature races that admit horses aged three and over.

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