What is a Horse Race?

A horse race is a competition in which a group of horses are ridden by jockeys and guided over a set course, often featuring obstacles such as jumps or hurdles. The winner of the race is awarded prize money. The practice of horse racing is controversial and is sometimes criticized by animal welfare advocates.

Despite the romanticized facade of horse races in which spectators show off their finest hats and sip mint juleps, Thoroughbred racehorses are forced to sprint-often under the threat of whips or illegal electric shock devices-at speeds that cause them to sustain injuries and even hemorrhage from their lungs. Moreover, ownership turnover in horse racing is high and most horses are callously sold (or “claimed”) multiple times during their careers.

The earliest horse races were match races, in which owners agreed to wager a fixed amount of money on a specific outcome. Agreements were recorded by disinterested third parties, who came to be known as keepers of the match book. Originally, match races were between two or at most three horses, and an owner who withdrew forfeited half the purse. Later, the entire purse was forfeited if an agreement between owners was broken. A keeper of the match book at Newmarket began publishing An Historical List of All Horse-Matches Run (1729), which consolidated match books at several racing centres and became the basis for James Weatherby’s later Racing Calendar.

In addition to establishing the scale of weights that horses are expected to carry in a given race, match races were an important step toward standardization and fairness in horse racing. In 1731, King’s Plate races were standardized by requiring six-year-old horses to carry 168 pounds in four-mile heats. The races continued until 1860, when the length of the race was reduced to two miles and five-year-olds were added to the field.

Match race winners and runners-up are referred to as the leading contenders, while the top-five finishers are termed the “prime contenders.” The odds on each horse are determined by the betting public and are based on a variety of factors, including past performances (PP), speed figures, and the horses’ breeding and racing histories.

A match race is a type of horse race in which the winner of a specific race becomes the prime contender to become the next leader of a company or organization. While some governance experts have questioned the horse race approach to CEO succession, it has been a successful method of selecting leaders for many admired companies, such as General Electric, Procter & Gamble, and GlaxoSmithKline. As such, the use of the horse race as a means of identifying top management candidates should be considered by any company wishing to implement an effective succession process.