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Horse racing is one of the most compelling sports on the planet, and the biggest races are watched by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. While there is no shortage of avid punters, even the average person on the street will place a couple of horse racing bets each year, or at least take part in an office pool for big races like the Kentucky Derby, the Grand National, or the Melbourne Cup in the Spring Racing Carnival.
There are many kinds of Thoroughbred horse racing such as horses like Shamrocker and Scarlett Lady, though Thoroughbreds aren't the only racehorses. Harness racing requires a different breed altogether - the Standardbred - and long distance races generally require Arabians, which are better suited to travelling a long way than they are to short bursts of speed.
Flat racing is the most popular form of horse racing, as it is a simple race from the start to the finish around a track without obstacles. That may seem simple, but there are many subtle variations that can entirely change the nature of flat horse races. Distance, track type (turf, dirt, synthetic), track handedness, handicaps, and more are all conditions that will favor horses with particular traits over others.
One flat race really can have an entirely different feel to another based on just a few variations, even though the goal of both races is essentially the same. For instance, the Kentucky Derby and the Epsom Derby are both prestigious races for 3-year-olds only with the same weights, yet the Kentucky Derby is raced over 1 and ј miles on dirt and the Epsom Derby is raced over 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 10 yards on turf. The Kentucky Derby generally takes about 2 minutes, whereas the Epsom Derby is considerably slower at a usual pace of a bit over 2 and a half minutes. While that doesn't seem like much longer, the small addition of distance in the Epsom Derby means that the runners keep up a noticeably slower pace for most of the race than horses in the Kentucky Derby. This is despite the fact that turf tracks tend to be faster – the extra distance simply necessitates a slower overall pace.
Chases are popular worldwide, though they are a particularly important feature of UK horse racing. The difference between steeplechases and flat races is probably best compared to the difference between NASCAR and rally driving. While NASCAR is fast and direct, rally driving offers more realistic challenges. In chases, horses must jump over various kinds of challenging obstacles. This is different to flat racing, which requires no jumps, and also to hurdle racing, which has easier obstacles made of thin pieces of wood.
While there is variety in chases based on the same kind of conditions found in flat racing, each chase is fairly unique based upon the obstacles it contains. A horse running in a chase that it has finished in previously has a distinct advantage over a horse that has never run that chase. The difficulty of chasing leads to much higher equine fatality rates compared to flat racing, with the Grand National at Aintree a common target of animal rights organizations due around 80 equine deaths in its long history.
Aside from the use of carts, harness racing also uses Standardbred horses instead of Thoroughbred horses. In harness racing, the horses pull their rider in a two-wheeled cart called a sulky. Races are conducted in one of two kinds of gaits: pacing or trotting. Trotting requires the horse to move its legs in diagonal pairs, while pacing involves both legs on the same side moving forward at once. While not as popular among the general public as other forms of racing, many diehard race fans love to gamble on harness races. Obviously it is a much slower form of racing, which turns off the casual crowd. However, there is a lot of strategy to gaining position in a harness race and the more strategic elements are what many find appealing about harness racing.
What would horse racing be without betting? A much smaller industry, for one, but also nowhere near as much fun! Pretty much everyone has placed a wager on a horse race at some point, and many horse racing fans probably wouldn't bother with horses if they couldn't put money down on the most prestigious races. Without betting, racing certainly wouldn't get the kind of media attention it does, not to mention the networks of informational horse racing sites like Racing Post that many people rely on for access to horse racing statistics.
There are three major kinds of betting on horse racing: parimutuel gambling, set odds gambling, and betting exchanges. Parimutuel gambling determines payouts based on the money in the prize pool, with winnings paid out proportionally and odds for a bet changing right up until the race begins. Fixed odds are set by the bookmaker, and they do not change once the bet has been taken. Betting exchanges have bettors placing and taking bets among one another, with the house only taking a small commission for facilitating the bets. Each kind of betting has its advantages and disadvantages, but parimutuel betting is the most common.
While people used to have to go to a bookmaker or the track in order to bet on horse racing, the Internet has made the whole process much more convenient. Most bettors now place their horse racing bets from home via online bookmakers. There are hundreds of bookmakers on the Web, and plenty of gambling portals to recommend the top bookmakers for horse racing enthusiasts.