What is a Horse Race?
Horse race is a competition between two or more horses in which the winning horse is the one to cross the finish line first. A person who makes a bet on the outcome of a horse race is called a bettor or punter and can win a sum of money if they correctly predict which horse will finish first. While many national horse racing organisations have different rules, the basic principle of a horse race is unchanged over centuries.
In a typical race, the riders on each horse are required to follow a prescribed course (which may include jumping hurdles, if present) and reach the finish line before all the other competitors. A sum of prize money is awarded to the first, second and third place finishers. Some races are open to the public and others are restricted to people who have purchased tickets. Despite its illustrious history, the popularity of horse races has declined in recent years. The reasons for this are complex and diverse. A decline in gambling is partly to blame. In addition, horse racing has lost its appeal as a spectator sport due to scandals over safety and doping.
As a result, the number of racegoers has dropped and the amount of prize money awarded has been reduced. In the US, the number of horse races has fallen by 40% since 2006, according to research firm IBISWorld. This decline in popularity has been attributed to the rise of other forms of entertainment, such as sports events, and also to a growing awareness among new would-be fans that horse racing is an unnatural activity that does not mirror how horses live in the wild.
Behind the romanticized facade of horse racing lies a world of injuries, drug abuse and gruesome breakdowns. Dead racehorses are found with broken necks, shattered spines and severed limbs. Many horses are pushed beyond their limits by trainers and jockeys, who use whips and illegal electric shock devices to drive them on at speeds that often cause traumatic breakdowns and even hemorrhage in the lungs.
To avoid this, horse racers rely on centuries of experience, data from previous races and intuition when planning their strategies. They also use a range of drugs, including legal and illegal anabolic steroids, to improve their performance.
Researchers at EHESS have now developed a computer model that allows them to predict whether a particular horse will win a given race. The model takes into account a horse’s unique aerobic capacity and determines the optimal racing strategy to maximize its power output.
For example, a horse with high endurance will benefit from a slow start and a burst of energy in the final furlough. A faster start, on the other hand, will lead to exhaustion by the time the race comes to a close. The model can be used by trainers to create customized racing strategies for individual horses. The team’s study is published today in PLOS ONE.