Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, typically involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys (or sometimes driven without riders) over a set distance for competition. It is one of the most ancient of all sports, as its basic premise – to identify which of two or more horses is the fastest over a set course or distance – has been unchanged since at least classical antiquity.
Horse races vary widely in format and many countries have developed their own particular traditions around the sport. Variations include restricting races to particular breeds, running over obstacles, running over different distances, running on different track surfaces and running in different gaits.
While horses are sometimes raced purely for sport, a major part of horse racing’s interest and economic importance is in the gambling associated with it, an activity that in 2008 generated a worldwide market worth around US$115 billion.
There are many different types of horse racing, including:
Flat racing, where horses gallop directly between two points around a straight or oval track.
Jump racing, or Jumps racing, also known as Steeplechasing or, in the UK and Ireland, National Hunt racing, where horses race over obstacles.
Harness racing, where horses trot or pace while pulling a driver in a sulky.
Endurance racing, where horses travel across country over extreme distances, generally ranging from 25 to 100 miles (40 to 161 km).
Different breeds of horses have developed that excel in each of the specific disciplines. Breeds that are used for flat racing include the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Paint, and Appaloosa. Jump racing breeds include the Thoroughbred and AQPS. In harness racing, Standardbreds are used in Australia, New Zealand and North America, when in Europe, Russian and French Trotter are used with Standardbred. Light cold blood horses, such as Finnhorses and Scandinavian coldblood trotter are also used in harness racing within their respective geographical areas.