You don't have to be a gambling man to agree that horse racing is one of the most exciting sports you can watch. The animals are gorgeous, the jockeys are colorful, the tracks are usually beautifully landscaped, and race fans are the best dressed fans in the sporting world. Horse racing is immediately gratifying. You watch a dozen or so horses thunder around a dirt or grass track and in under two minutes, there's a winner. Plus, there's an element of danger to racing, with everything happening at such high speeds. While the basic premise of racing, two or more horses competing to find out who is fastest, is simple, the details can be a bit confusing.
In the United States, you can watch Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians, or Standardbreds race. They may race in a flat race on dirt or grass, a harness race, or a steeplechase, which has natural obstacles or fences for the horses to jump over. Every race has different rules governing which horses can enter and how much money they can win. Usually, these rules stipulate the horses' breed, ages, sex, the number of previous wins allowable, the weight of the jockeys, and other such details. The purpose of these rules is to make the races fair. For example, you can't enter your mature stallion who has already won ten races in a race against a group of fillies who have never raced just so that you can collect easy prize money.
Race horse owners pay to enter their horses in races in the hopes of collecting prize money. Usually, an owner will try to win as much money as possible in as few races as possible. Most owners prefer to limit the risk they expose their horses to. Some horses only race a handful of times per year, but there are others who race a handful of times per week.
In most cases, there is a team of people working with every horse. This team includes an owner who pays for everything and makes decisions about hiring, a trainer who works with the horse on a daily basis, and a jockey who is contracted to ride the horse for every race. Bigger teams also may include grooms, vets, and exercise riders.
On race day, an owner and his team will bring the horse to the track. When his race is up, the horse will be tacked up and a jockey, dressed in the owner's silks, will mount up and parade the horse in front of spectators. The horses will be led to a mechanical starting gate, where they are loaded in. The second the final horse is loaded, the race begins and all of the gates open. The horses race around the track, always counter clockwise, to a finish line right in front of the spectators. Most American races are less than two miles long, so the races are over pretty quickly. There may be a photograph to determine which horse won the race, and the first three horses to finish all win prize money. The winning horse gets his or her picture taken and is led back to the barn.