A horse race is a competition in which two or more horses compete to finish a course. The course varies in length, depending on the specific race and custom of the country in which it is run. The races are usually timed to the nearest one fifth of a second. In the United States, the majority of races are sprint races, which do not exceed a mile in distance. As the racing industry has become more commercial in nature, speed has been given more importance than stamina. Before the turn of the 20th century, most races in England were longer than a mile, and the rider’s skill and judgment played a much greater role in a victory.

The popularity of horse racing has declined in recent decades, largely because of the public’s growing awareness of the cruelty involved. While the vast majority of horsemen and women are ethical and caring, a small feral minority continue to stain the sport with their abuse. Increasingly, people are turning away from betting on horse races and donating to charities that care for the horses. New would-be fans are turned off by the scandals involving doping and safety, and the exploitation of young horses that never make it to the track.

Despite the sexy, glamorous image that the horse racing industry portrays to the world, it is in serious trouble. The industry is struggling to survive and is hemorrhaging fans, revenue, race days, and entries. Growing awareness of the dark side of the sport-including gruesome breakdowns and injuries, drug abuse, illegal electric shock devices, and slaughter-has fueled calls for reform from horse lovers, animal welfare organizations, and politicians.

In 2022 Congress passed a law requiring safety standards and the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority began monitoring track conditions in July. But the for-profit business that created racing has been unwilling to change. Instead, it continues to exploit younger running horses for profit and to ignore the welfare of the equine athletes who will be its future.

Amid the pinkish light of late afternoon at Santa Anita, horses and riders were drenched in sweat. War of Will was inside the rail hugging the lead with McKinzie and Mongolian Groom close behind. Toward the end of the backstretch, a huge chestnut colt named Vino Rosso surged up on the outside. The jockeys swung their whips with hypnotic smoothness. It was a dramatic moment, but the horses would not finish well.

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