Unlike other sports, in horse racing the horses are the stars. Horse racing is conducted by a jockey riding a horse. Yet few people will remember the name of a famous jockey while famous horses, such as “I’ll Have Another” and Seabiscuit, can become household names. Further, unlike many other sports, male and female horses often compete against each other in the same race, adding an extra layer of competition. Male and female jockeys will also often compete against each other. The exciting stories and personalities of the horses themselves create exciting race day experiences that contribute to a form of gambling unlike any other.
At the end of the day the outcome of the race is most likely to be determined by the horse, not the jockey. Indeed jockeys are essentially homogenized in order to ensure that they have minimal impact on the race. For example, weights may be used to increase the weight of a jockey if he or she weighs too little and usually strict weight limits are set for jockeys. Steps like this ensure that the horse remains in the spotlight. Indeed, when you place a bet on a horse race you place a bet on the horse itself, not the jockey. These measures have helped horses become the superstars of their sports and in a sense have relegated their human trainers and jockeys to a secondary role.
Perhaps the most famous American horse over the last few years has been the mare (female) Zenyatta. She won 19 of her 20 starts, including victories at the 2008 and 2009 Breeder’s Cup Classic, one of the most prestigious races for horses 3 years and older. Like many Mares, Zenyatta enjoyed her prime in her later years, which for a race horse is usually years 4 and 5. Over the course of Zenyatta’s life her winnings amounted to over 7.3 million dollars.
Another recent superstar is Sea the Stars who is currently the “Michael Jordan” of Irish and British horse racing. He is the first horse in 20 years to sweep the 2,000 guineas, Epsom Derby, and Eclipse stakes, all major races in the United Kingdom. Still a young horse, Sea the Stars still has plenty of potential track ahead of him and has already secured over 4 million dollars in earnings.
Arguably, the most prestigious American race is the Kentucky Derby, a race between 3 year old thorough breeds held at the Churchill Downs. Traditionally the Derby has been dominated by colt (male) horses, however three fillies (females) have won the race. The most recent filly to win the race was “Winning Colors,” who won in 1988. She was well-known for handily beating colts of her own age and pedigree and is now in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Some horses have even had major motion pictures made in their honor. One such horse is Seabiscuit, an undersized horse who famously beat the legendary War Admiral and enjoyed many other victories. Similar to the plot of many sports movies, Seabiscuit was seemingly outmatched by the heavily favored War Admiral at the Pimlico Race Course. War Admiral was then regarded as essentially the Muhammad Ali of horses and was viewed as being virtually unbeatable. The match itself was labeled as the “Match of the Century” and drew tens of thousands of people to the race track with millions of more tuning in via radios. Seabiscuit would go on to win the race in stunning fashion, winning by an astonishing 4 four lengths.
In conclusion, horse racing is one of the few sports where animals are the star. The mystique behind the animals themselves, their heritage, and their own personal stories make for an exciting sport unlike any other. The animal stars themselves help make horse racing one of the most exciting forms of gambling around. Unlike many other forms of gambling, pure chance and luck are not the sole deciding factors but instead the strength and speed of the horses themselves. This has helped make horse racing a unique and exciting sport to place bets on.
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