Day: April 12, 2024

The horse race is one of the most popular sports in the world, but it also is among the most controversial. The sport is rife with controversy over animal welfare, betting practices and drug use. It also is criticized for the economic benefits it provides to state governments that are struggling with budget deficits and aging populations. Some experts suggest that the game is at a tipping point and could collapse in coming decades. In medieval England, professional riders (known as jockeys) demonstrated the top speed of their horses for potential buyers by racing them. The races were over short distances such as a quarter mile or half mile and took place on open fields or roads. A jockey rode bareback and was often a young boy skilled in horse care and maintenance. The sport became more organized in the 1700s, and races over longer distances were established. To help keep the competition fair, rules were developed to limit who could participate based on age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance. These races were called open claiming events, and the horses that ran in them could not win more than a set amount of money. Today, there are many types of horse races. Some are restricted to a particular gender or age group, while others are limited in size and require specific pedigrees. For example, a conditioned claiming race requires that the horse have won a certain number of races and must have a sire and dam who are purebreds of the same breed as the horse. The conditioned claiming schedule is often published weeks or months ahead of time and is used by trainers to develop their training regimens. At Santa Anita, the first race on the card was a maiden special weight. Mongolian Groom was entered in it, and the owners of the other horses in the race, including the reigning Preakness champion War of Will, were anxious to see if his coat was bright enough to be a contender. Horses are judged by their appearance in the walking ring before the race; a bright, shiny coat that is rippling with sweat is thought to indicate that the beast is ready to run. As a result, the betting window on Mongolian Groom opened wide. His trainer, Nick Alexander, believed he had a chance to win that race. His horse, however, balked at the starting gate. Horses that balk are frightened or angry, and bettors often take that as a sign that they should not be placed in close races. Despite this, Mongolian Groom was able to finish in third behind War of Will and Just Grazed Me, a filly owned by Ganbaatar Dagvadorj, a Mongolian businessman who made his fortune in post-Communist supermarkets. Like other horses, he was injected that day with Lasix, a diuretic that helps prevent pulmonary bleeding, which hard running can cause. The drug is noted on the racing form with a boldface “L.” It’s widely used by thoroughbreds, and for decades it has been mandatory in most U.S. races.

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