horse racing

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horse racing

Sport of running horses at speed. Typically, Thoroughbreds are raced with a rider astride and Standardbreds with the horse pulling a conveyance with a driver. Though racing has an ancient lineage, the first regularly organized national races were established in England under Charles II (r. 1660–85), and the first in North America were held on Long Island in 1665. These early races were match events between two or three horses and were run in heats; a horse had to complete at least two heats to be judged the winner. By the mid-18th century, larger fields of runners and single-race “dash” events were the norm. Handicap racing emerged in the mid-18th century as well, as gambling came to be a standard part of horse racing. Pari-mutuel betting was instituted in the 20th century. Thoroughbred racing, conducted on a flat, elliptical, mile-long track, attracts the largest purses, followed by harness racing and quarter-horse racing. The most important U.S. Thoroughbred races are the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. See also steeplechase.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on horse racing, visit Britannica.com.

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